An ISLAMIC State (IS) suicide bomber killed two Iraqi army generals yesterday as they led forces against the terror group’s positions in the turbulent Anbar province west of Baghdad.
The bomber drove his explosives-laden vehicle into advancing troops north of Anbar’s capital, IS-held Ramadi, killing the two generals and three soldiers. A military spokesman said on state television that ten other soldiers had been wounded.
A statement identified the two generals as Major General Abdul-Rahman Abu-Regheef, deputy chief of operations in Anbar, and Brigadier General Sefeen Abdul-Maguid, commander of the 10th Army Division.
Government forces and allied Sunni and Shiite militiamen have been battling IS militants in Anbar for months but have made only modest gains against the group that controls most of the vast province that stretches west of Baghdad.
Speaking on state television, military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya al-Zobeidi sought to play down the psychological effect of the loss of the two generals. “We will not stop our operations and we will continue to advance,” he said.
There was no immediate comment on the attack from the terrorist group.
IS has controlled about a third of Iraq following a blitz across the north and west of the country in the summer of 2014. An American-led coalition has been staging airstrikes against IS positions in Iraq and Syria for about a year.
Yesterday’s attack came as government forces and allied militiamen are coming under mounting pressure from IS militants in the oil refinery town of Beiji, north of Baghdad. Government forces retook Beiji late last year from the IS, but the militants are on the offensive there again and now control about half of the town and the refinery, located to the north.
Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said this week that winning the ongoing battle over Beiji was key to defeating the IS in Iraq.
Meanwhile, IS has seized new territory from rebels in northern Syria, advancing in an area where Turkey and the United States are planning to open a new front against the group.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group tracking the war, said the terrorists had seized five villages, including two near the Turkish border, from other Syrian insurgents.
IS announced it had captured three villages in the area and said its fighters had nearly encircled the rebel-held town of Marea, some 12 miles south of the Turkish border.
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that the two Nato allies would soon launch “comprehensive” air operations in an attempt to flush IS fighters from the border region.