ISIS “executed” five Iraqis, including members of the security forces, during ongoing fighting in the western town of Rutba, army officers said Monday.
Militants launched an attack on Rutba, a remote but strategic town near the Jordanian border in Anbar province, early on Sunday.
They briefly seized the mayor’s office before being pinned back by the security forces but were still deployed in some other neighborhoods of the town, the officers said.
“Daesh (ISIS) controls Mithaq and Intisar neighborhoods in central Rutba,” an army colonel told AFP.
“They captured people -- civilians and policemen -- and executed them,” he said. “At least five people were executed” on Sunday, the colonel said.
Lieutenant General Ismail al-Mahalawi, head of the Operations Command for the western Anbar province, confirmed the executions but said Iraqi forces were regaining the upper hand.
“Military units from the (army) 8th division and a brigade from Anbar Operations Command moved to Rutba, redeploying there to clear the positions Daesh control in the city,” he said.
The attack on Rutba was seen as a fresh attempt by ISIS to draw attention and Iraqi military resources away from Mosul, which is their last major stronghold in the country.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces launched an offensive on Mosul a week ago. ISIS is vastly outnumbered and the outcome of the battle appears to be in little doubt.
The militants are offering stiff resistance however and launching attacks elsewhere in the country to mobilize Iraqi forces on several fronts.
On Friday, dozens of jihadist fighters launched a spectacular attack on the Kurdish-controlled city of Kirkuk that killed at least 46 people, most of them members of the security forces.
The Joint Operations Command overseeing the fight against ISIS in Iraq said that jihadists launched their attack on Rutba at dawn on Sunday.
After forcing the attackers out of the mayor’s office, Iraqi forces destroyed 12 ISIS vehicles, killing their occupants, the JOC said in a statement.
Iraqi forces have in recent months retaken a lot of ground from ISIS in Anbar, a vast Sunni province which has long been considered an insurgent bastion and has borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
ISIS fighters only control areas near the Syria border but are still able to move in desert areas and harass government forces in the province’s town and cities.SHOW MORE