Islamic State jihadists

Islamic State jihadists Monday seized an army base in the town of Hit as they continue their advance in Iraq’s western province of al-Anbar, local media reported.

Islamic State jihadists Troops in the base conducted a “tactical retreat” to the al-Baghdadi area, taking all the base’s military equipment with them, Iraq’s Alsumaria News reported.

Iraqi news agency Al-Mada Press reported the base fell after hours of clashes.

Security forces have meanwhile evacuated detainees from prisons in and around the al-Anbar provincial capital of al-Ramadi to alternative detention sites in Baghdad, the Al-Mada Press reported separately.

Experts have said that the jihadist advance threatens to cut off remaining security forces in the Sunni-dominated province, which stretches from the western outskirts of Baghdad to the Syrian border.

The United Nations said on Sunday that the ongoing clashes around Hit have displaced some 180,000 people, many of whom were themselves previously displaced from other areas.

Hit was one of the few areas in al-Anbar where it had been possible to distribute humanitarian aid in recent months, the UN said.

Elsewhere in Iraq, police officials said that 24 Islamic State fighters were killed and 16 wounded when Kurdish Peshmerga forces shelled a training camp where they were holding a graduation parade for recruits, near al-Muqdadiyah north-east of Baghdad.

A car bomb attack killed 10 civilians and injured nine in the centre of al-Muqdadiyah, the officials said.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond paid an unannounced visit to Baghdad, meeting Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Hammond said that the British government was playing its part to counter Islamic State with direct airstrikes on the jihadists, as well as providing military equipment and training for Kurdish forces.

Hammond backed calls by UN Iraq envoy Nickolay Mladenov for ministers from the autonomous Kurdish region to take their places in the Baghdad government.

The Kurds have been seeking to resolve a dispute over budget allocations and control of oil resources before agreeing to join al-Abadi’s government, which they backed at the last minute under international pressure.

In neighbouring Syria, Kurdish forces said that they had gained some ground in their defence of the besieged town of Kobane against Islamic State jihadists.

Idris Nassan, deputy foreign affairs minister in the Kobane administration, told dpa that, following fierce clashes overnight, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) managed to advance into a commercial zone north-east of the city, located near the Turkish border.

He added that the Kurdish fighters were also able to advance into an area south-west of Kobane “where they managed to push away Islamic State fighters from the area.”

The commander of the Kurdish Women’s Protection Units in Kobane, Meysa Abdu, said that Turkish border forces had told the Kurdish defenders to move away from the Mursitpinar border crossing between the two countries, which is the town’s only lifeline.

The border area came under shelling during the afternoon, while a suicide blast took place nearby, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The monitoring group said clashes were taking place to the west of a security compound in the centre of Kobane which the jihadists captured on Friday.

The reported advances by the Kurdish fighters came following intensified overnight airstrikes by the US-led coalition upon areas east and south of Kobane, the Observatory reported, adding that five more air raids took place on Monday morning.

The US Joint Chiefs of Staff were due to host a meeting later Monday with defence ministers of the coalition against the Islamic State to discuss further strategy.

A deal has not yet been reached between Washington and Ankara on the use of the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey for attacks against the Islamic State jihadist group in Iraq and Syria, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The agency cites sources in Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s office as saying talks with the US continue.

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice had Sunday said that Turkey would allow coalition forces to use its bases.

Fighting in Kobane has forced more than 200,000 people to flee to Turkey, according to the government in Ankara. The entire region has been depopulated of its Kurdish residents.


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