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Iraq militants make ground in push towards Baghdad

AFP

Shiites volunteers, loyal to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, take positions during a military advance in areas under the control of Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the town of Samarra, in the province of Tikrit, on July 12, 2014. Iraqi forces and tribal fighters beat back a fresh assault by Sunni militants on the town of Haditha, strategic for the large nearby dam and its oil refinery, police said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYEVolunteers loyal to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr take positions in Samarra in Tikrit province on July 12, 2014

Shiites volunteers, loyal to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, take positions during a military advance in areas under the control of Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), in the town of Samarra, in the province of Tikrit, on July 12, 2014. Iraqi forces and tribal fighters beat back a fresh assault by Sunni militants on the town of Haditha, strategic for the large nearby dam and its oil refinery, police said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYEVolunteers loyal to Muslim Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr take positions in Samarra in Tikrit province on July 12, 2014

Militants seized part of the Iraqi town of Dhuluiyah Sunday in fighting that killed six people, an official said, as a new drive towards the capital entered its third day.

Four policemen were among the dead in the fighting for the town, which the militants took in a lightning offensive last month before its recapture by government forces in one of their rare successes of the conflict, district official Marwan Mitaab said.

The assault on the town, just 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Baghdad, began early on Sunday and has since overrun more than half of it, including the police station and two local government buildings, Mitaab said.

A Dhuluiyah resident said that a large part of the town has been overrun, reversing gains made by police and residents, who expelled militants from the town last month.

After a period in which battle lines have been relatively stagnant, jihadist-led militants seem to be making a renewed push to gain ground, after overrunning a vast swathe of northern and north-central Iraq in their offensive that began in second city Mosul on June 9.

Security forces held off major attacks near Anbar provincial capital Ramadi and the strategic Euphrates valley town of Haditha on Friday and Saturday.

But militants were able to overrun two towns in Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, on Saturday, despite a security force operation aimed at regaining territory in the confessionally mixed province.

The violence comes with Iraq's fractious parliament due to meet later Sunday under heavy pressure to set differences aside and make progress on forming a new government to help counter the militant drive towards Baghdad.

Date created : 2014-07-13