THE LEVANT NEWS — BAGHDAD: An ISIS militant blew up an explosive-laden bulldozer near Haditha, killing seven Iraqi soldiers in one of a wave of bomb attacks on the northwestern town Monday, a police source said.
Haditha and its nearby dam lie in one of the few parts of the huge western province of Anbar still under the control of Iraq’s Shiite-led government forces, which were driven out of the provincial capitalRamadi in May.
Security services said they fired on and destroyed four other vehicles believed to be rigged with explosives near the town, before they could reach their targets. The coordinated assault reflected an escalation of ISIS operations in the final days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
In a statement two weeks ago, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammad Adnani called for increased attacks during Ramadan, and specifically mentioned Haditha.
A car bomb also exploded Monday in the town of Jubba, about 30 km (20 miles) southeast of Haditha, close to the Ain al-Asad air base where U.S. forces have been training Sunni Muslim fighters from Anbar to take on ISIS.
A police source said seven soldiers were killed.
The Sunni Muslim province of Anbar is a stronghold of the ISIS militants who control swathes of Iraq and Syria, including the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, capital of their self-declared caliphate.
In Iraq, the Islamist militants have been driven out of the city ofTikrit and eastern province of Diyala, but have launched repeated strikes to retake lost ground in the refinery town of Beiji, north of Tikrit.
Army troops and fighters from the mainly Shiite Muslim Hashd Shaabi militias – backed by a U.S.-led air campaign – have stepped up their counter-offensive in Anbar, cutting off a northern supply route to ISIS-held Falluja as they tighten an attempted siege of the city, just 40 km (25 miles) west of Baghdad.
A security source in Anbar said security forces recaptured a bridge north of Ramadi Monday in an attack which killed 14 ISIS fighters.
In northeast Iraq, ISIS fighters launched an attack early Monday against Kurdish peshmerga forces in the village of Murah, near the city of Kirkuk. A Kurdish police officer said peshmerga fighters, backed by airstrikes, repelled the attack at around dawn after five hours of fighting.
A statement issued in the name ISIS said the Islamists had taken one peshmerga fighter prisoner, showing a photograph of a man with blood spattered on his shirt and face.
Kurdish forces later drove around with the bodies of dead militants splayed on the bonnets of their armored vehicles.