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Iraqi forces say repel jihadist attack west of Baghdad

AFP , Sunday 28 Sep 2014
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Iraqi pro-government forces backed by warplanes on Sunday repelled a jihadist attack on a strategic town only 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, security sources said.

The Islamic State (IS) group attacked Amriyat al-Fallujah at around 1:00 am (2200 GMT on Saturday), local police chief Aref al-Janabi told AFP.

"They attacked from two sides... The fighting lasted five hours," he said, adding that soldiers, policemen and Sunni tribesmen were fighting together to defend the town.

"Warplanes eventually engaged the insurgents and killed 15 of them," he said.

According to Janabi, the IS military leader in the nearby city of Fallujah -- whom he named as Mullah Jassem Mohammed Hamad -- was killed leading the attack.

A military intelligence officer at the operations command for Anbar province, of which Amriyat al-Fallujah is part, also reported the IS leader's death.

It was not immediately clear which air force intervened but French and US jets have carried out air strikes in areas west of Baghdad.

Unlike the restive city of Fallujah, which was out of government control even before a major IS push inside Iraq in June, the smaller town of Amriyat al-Fallujah has held off.

"They tried to seize it because it has strategic importance. It is a main logistics road for the army and it is the link between Anbar and Karbala," a Shiite holy city south of Baghdad, Janabi said.

He said both sides were now in a standoff, with the jihadists still holding positions north of Amriyat al-Fallujah.

The army has in recent days suffered stinging setbacks in Anbar province, notably when IS fighters attacked bases north of Fallujah.

A security official has admitted that at least 155 government forces were dead or missing as a result of the raid on Saqlawiya base. The jihadists issued a statement claiming they killed 300.

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