Iraqi forces launch offensive to grab gunmen-held town

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Iraqi security forces carried out an offensive on Saturday to retake a town captured by gunmen in the volatile province of Anbar, while bomb attacks killed a policeman and wounded seven people, security and medical sources said.

A quick reaction force, an Iraqi elite military unit, backed by a brigade of armored vehicles and helicopter gunships, stormed in the morning the militant-seized town of Saqlawiyah, just north of the besieged city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and clashed fiercely with gunmen believed to be linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), an al- Qaida breakaway group in Iraq, a source from the provincial command operations told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The troops tried to enter the town from four directions after they seized a main road leading to Fallujah, the source said, adding that the troops seized parts of the town after several hours of clashes with the gunmen.

The source did not give further details about casualties of the battle, and he could not confirm whether the troops remained in the town or withdrew by the battles.

Separately, mortar shelling on several neighborhoods in Fallujah wounded seven people and damaged several houses, a medical source from the city hospital told Xinhua.

Three of the wounded were from one family, the source said, adding that some of the victims are in critical condition.

In addition, a roadside bomb explosion left a policeman dead in Abu Ghraib area, some 25 km west of Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua.

Insurgent attacks continue in the volatile Sunni Arab area in west of Baghdad that stretches through Anbar province, which has been the scene of fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside the provincial capital city of Ramadi in late December last year. Endi

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