Islamic State group militants launch assault on small Iraq town, battle security forces

Islamic State group militants launched an assault Thursday on a small town in western Iraq, a military spokesman said, as the United Nations warned that 10 months of violence in the country has taken a heavy toll on civilians.

BAGHDAD — Islamic State group militants launched an assault Thursday on a small town in western Iraq, a military spokesman said, as the United Nations warned that 10 months of violence in the country has taken a heavy toll on civilians.

Iraq is in its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops as Sunni militant groups led by the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State group have seized a third of the country since early this year. In one lightning offensive over the summer, Iraq’s U.S.-trained army and security forces melted away as the extremists advanced and captured key cities and towns in country’s north.

In Iraq and along with areas in eastern Syria, the militants have declared a self-styled caliphate and imposed their own harsh interpretation of Islamic Shariah law. They have also targeted the country’s religious minorities, including Christians and others, killing hundreds and forcing hundreds of thousands to leave their homes.

The attack Thursday against the town of Hit started at dawn when the militants, using at least three suicide bombers, attacked checkpoints at its entrances, military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said. Al-Moussawi said there were causalities among the security forces but that no precise figure was available.

A resident said militants were seen taking control of the mayor office and roaming the streets with pickup trucks fitted with machine-guns as the dead bodies of security force members lay in the streets. The resident spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his safety.

The fighting over Hit in Anbar province, some 140 kilometres (85 miles) west of Baghdad, comes as Iraqi Kurdish security forces, known as peshmerga, have dislodged militants from northwestern towns of Rabia, Zumar and Mahmoudiyah, with the assistance of airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition.

Also Thursday, the U.N. said the ongoing fighting has left a “staggering array” of gross human rights abuses and “acts of violence of an increasingly sectarian nature” committed by the militants as well as Iraqi security forces and associated forces.

In a 29-page report, the U.N. special mission to Iraq and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said the abuses include directly targeting civilians and civilian buildings, the targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and the denial of fundamental freedoms.

In a statement, the U.N. said the death toll among civilians so far this year is at least 9,347 civilians, while 17,386 have been wounded. It said over half of the casualties have happened since Islamic State group began overrunning large parts of the north in early June.

“This report is terrifying,” said Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, saying that hundreds of other allegations concerning the killing of civilians were not included because they had not yet been sufficiently verified. “Iraqi leaders must act in unity to restore control over areas that have been taken over by (Islamic State group fighters) and implement inclusive social, political and economic reforms.”

Just Posted

Downtown Red Deer was packed with people who lined the streets to watch the Westerner Days parade on Wednesday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Westerner Days parade cancelled, full details on modified event coming June 28

The 2021 edition of Westerner Days will look much different than any… Continue reading

City council wants to hear from the public at a May 25 hearing about whether the temporary homeless shelter should be allowed to remain in the downtown for another year. (Advocate file photo).
City of Red Deer staff to recommend another extension to allow operations at current temporary shelter site

Following some more research city administration has received no other new locations… Continue reading

A scene from the short Western ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws,’ written and directed by Jason Steele, with support from Telus Storyhive. (Contributed image)
Red Deerians make ‘Cheaters, Robbers and Outlaws’ short Western film

Writer and director Jason Steele received a $20,000 Storyhive grant from Telus

Residents in several neighbourhoods reported little to no water pressure Tuesday night. (File photo by Advocate staff)
City hall to reopen for payments and customer service

Red Deer City Hall will reopen on June 21 for utility and… Continue reading

Char Rausch was selected as this year’s recipient of the Bob Stollings Award, which goes to an employee who has displayed outstanding civic performance in alignment with The City’s Cornerstone Values – Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
Char Rausch wins City of Red Deer Bob Stollings Award

The City of Red Deer is honouring employees differently this year. With… Continue reading

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price stops Vegas Golden Knights' William Karlsson as he is covered by Canadiens' Joel Edmundson during first period of Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup semifinal Friday, June 18, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Andreson’s timely scoring, Price’s goaltending give Habs 2-1 series lead over Vegas

Canadiens 3 Golden Knights 2 (OT) (Montreal leads series 2-1) MONTREAL —… Continue reading

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) is defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) as he looks for an opening during the first half of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference semifinal series Friday, June 18, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Curry, Harris help 76ers stay alive, hold off Hawks 104-99

76ers 104 Hawks 99 (Series tied 3-3) ATLANTA — Seth Curry hit… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise of a two-dose fall is… Continue reading

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, speaks during a press conference in Ottawa, Thursday, May 13, 2021. Mendicino has announced a new policy to help settle 500 refugees and their families in a news conference today. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year: Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino announced plans to expedite applications and increase the… Continue reading

Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, plays his shot from the third tee during the second round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, Friday, June 18, 2021, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Bland leads at Torrey and shows the US Open is truly open

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Open prides itself on being the most… Continue reading

The Prime Minister's car waits outside the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg Tuesday, May 19, 2009. The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is showing no sign he'll release unredacted documents about the firing of two scientists at Canada's highest security laboratory — despite the prospect of being publicly shamed in the House of Commons for his refusal to turn them over. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
PHAC head maintains he’s bound by law not to release docs on fired scientists

OTTAWA — The head of the Public Health Agency of Canada is… Continue reading

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant in Canada

OTTAWA — The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly… Continue reading

Various vaping nicotine e-liquids or "juice" are shown in a lab at Portland State University in in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, April 16, 2019. The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products… Continue reading

Most Read