Iraq forces retake western town from IS

Iraqi security forces personnel on the road to Rutba, in Anbar province (16 May 2016)Image copyright

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The recapture of Rutba is the latest victory for Iraqi government forces in Anbar province

Iraqi government forces have regained control of a remote western town from the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says.

Mr Abadi announced that counter-terrorism troops, backed by tribesmen and US-led coalition air strikes, had raised the Iraqi flag in central Rutba.

Rutba was an important “support zone” used by IS to stage operations further north and east, the coalition said.

The town, on the main road to Jordan, was seized by IS two years ago.

It is also located south of a key IS-controlled border crossing with Syria, which the group uses to move militants and supplies to its strongholds in Iraq.

Despite its importance, the coalition believed Rutba was not as heavily defended as the IS-held city of Falluja, with up to several hundred militants based there.

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The recapture of Rutba, 360km (225 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, is the latest victory for Iraqi government forces in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar.

Troops and allied Sunni tribal fighters last month retook the town of Hit and in February declared that the provincial capital Ramadi had been fully liberated.

Iraqi and coalition officials believe the battlefield losses have prompted IS to turn increasingly to bombing civilian areas.

A wave of attacks in and around Baghdad in the past week has left some 200 people dead.

At least 69 civilians were killed on Tuesday in three separate bombings at markets in two mainly Shia districts of the city, and a fourth that targeted shoppers in a mixed Sunni-Shia area.

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