Islamic State takes Iraqi town of Rutba: Reports
The Islamic State (IS) group launched an attack and seized the western Iraqi town of Rutba on Monday as the government tries to retake Mosul, according to an Al Jazeera report.
Seeking to divert attention from the Mosul operation, the militants have tried to hit back with attacks in Rutba, as well as the major city of Kirkuk on Sunday.
They seized the mayor's office in Rutba, as well as captured and executed at least five people - civilians and policemen, army commanders said.
Rutba’s mayor, Imad al-Dulaimi, said the insurgents attacked during the night and gained entry to the town by coordinating with sleeper cells there. About 30 insurgents skirmished with tribal fighters and security forces.
The top US commander in Iraq, Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, said IS had staged what he called a complex attack in Rutba, which was being dealt with by Iraqi forces. The attack was intended "to try to draw our attention from Mosul", he said.
The commander of the Anbar operations, Ismail Al-Mahlawi, confirmed that militants executed civilians in Rutba. Arabic media cited him as saying that Iraqi troops were working to recapture the city.
Arabic media also cited a statement by Anbar council chief Sabah Karhoot, who urged Baghdad to send reinforcements to repel the IS offensive.
Around 20,000 people live in Rutba, whcih was previously taken by IS, but recaptured by government forces in May.
In an attempt to repel the offensive against Mosul, Islamic State also set fire to a sulphur plant near the city. Up to 1,000 people were treated in hospital after inhaling toxic fumes.
On Friday, IS sleeper cells in Kirkuk joined up with gunmen infiltrating the northern city in a brazen raid that saw several government buildings attacked.
The attack sparked clashes that lasted three days as security forces imposed a curfew to hunt down attackers holed up across the city.
The provincial governor, Najmeddin Karim, told AFP on Monday that the attack was over and life was returning to normal.
He said more than 74 IS militants were killed in the violence, which also left at least 46 other people dead, mostly members of the security forces.