Militants blitz through Iraq's western desert

Jun 23 2014, 08:41 IST
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President Barack Obama warned that the Islamic State could grow in power and destabilize the region. (Reuters) President Barack Obama warned that the Islamic State could grow in power and destabilize the region. (Reuters)
SummaryPresident Barack Obama warned that the Islamic State could grow in power and destabilize the region.

join the U.S. camp and those who seek an independent Iraq.''

''The U.S. aims to bring its own blind followers to power,'' said Khamenei, whose Shiite, none-Arab nation has close ties with al-Maliki's government and effectively plays the role of guarantor for Iraq's Shiite political domination. The U.S. has long accused Iran of meddling in Iraq, including organizing and backing Shiite militias following the 2003 invasion.

For now, however, the militants are on a seemingly unstoppable offensive.

On Sunday, their military advances took the conflict in Iraq to the doorstep of Jordan, a key U.S. ally that also borders embattled Syria to its north.

Sunday's capture of crossings bordering Jordan and Syria follows the fall on Friday and Saturday of the towns of Qaim, Rawah, Anah and Rutba, all of which are in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where the militants have since January controlled the city of Fallujah and parts of the provincial capital, Ramadi.

Rutba is on the main highway from Baghdad to the two border crossings and the capture of the crossing into Jordan has effectively cut the Iraqi capital's main land route to its neighbor. It is a key artery for passengers and goods and has been infrequently used in recent months because of deteriorating security.

The capture of Rawah on the Euphrates River and the nearby town of Anah appeared to be part of a march toward a key dam in the city of Haditha, the destruction of which would damage the country's electrical grid and cause major flooding. The military has dispatched reinforcements to the dam's site to protect it.

In a separate incident in Anbar, twin blasts by a suicide bomber and a car bomb targeted a funeral for a senior army officer, killing eight people and injuring 13, police and hospital officials said. The attack near the provincial capital of Ramadi hit the funeral of Brig. Gen. Abdul-Majid al-Fahdawi, who was killed by a mortar shell in Qaim on the Syrian border on Friday.

In other violence, Sunni militants in control of a small northern town handed over the decomposing bodies of 15 Shiites to authorities in the northern city of Kirkuk, according to the city's deputy police chief, Maj. Gen. Torhan Abdul-Rahman Youssef.

Residents of the town of Besher said the Shiites were hung from street lights and a water tank for days. The circumstances of their deaths were not immediately known and the residents requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

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