BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi armed forces recaptured a riverside town north of Baghdad on Friday, eyewitnesses said, after persistent attacks by Sunni Islamist insurgents who control large parts of northern Iraq.
The witnesses in the town of Dhuluiya, about 70 km (45 miles) north of Baghdad, said a military commander had arrived in the town. “He announced that Dhuluiya had been liberated completely,” one eyewitness said, adding that celebrations had erupted in the town.
Dhuluiya is part of a belt of Sunni Muslim towns north of Baghdad where the hardline Sunni Muslim Islamic State has managed to wrestle some control, often aligning with local militia who distrust Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government.
But in Dhuluiya itself, the influential Sunni al-Jubouri tribe has fought against the militants, with support from Shi’ite fighters in the predominantly Shi’ite town of Balad on the opposite bank of the Tigris River.
Iraqi state television quoted the state minister for provincial affairs, Ahmed al-Jubouri, as saying that security forces, along with pro-government volunteers and the al-Jubouri tribe had “liberated the town of Dhuluiya completely from ... terrorist gangs.”
U.S.-led forces started bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq in August and Washington expanded the campaign to Syria in an effort to defeat the well-armed insurgents who have swept through Sunni areas of both Iraq and Syria.
Washington hopes the air strikes, conducted with help from European allies in Iraq and Arab air forces in Syria, will allow government and Kurdish forces in Iraq, and moderate Sunnis in Syria, to recapture territory.
Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Dominic Evans