Islamist militants took control overnight of parts of the central Iraqi city of Baquba on Tuesday but security forces eventually repelled the assault, army and police officers said.
The overnight attack took place in the centre of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province, with militants temporarily occupying several neighbourhoods.
The city, located just 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Baghdad, is the closest the fighting has come to the capital since a major militant offensive swept down from the north last week.
At least 44 prisoners were killed in an overnight assault on a police station in the city, security and medical officials said on Tuesday, but accounts differed as to who was responsible for the killings. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's security spokesman said the prisoners were killed by insurgents and other officials said they were killed by security forces as they tried to escape.
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The offensive is led by jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) – also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – but also involves other groups, including supporters of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
Security forces performed poorly during the initial assault, in some cases abandoning uniforms and vehicles to flee, but seem to be recovering from the shock of the onslaught and have begun to push back.
Fallujah has been in militant hands since a January offensive that saw them take control of the city as well as other areas of Anbar province.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-06-17