The Islamic State (IS) militant group has made gains in the western Iraqi province of Anbar, retaking control of an area west of the city of Hit and besieging tribal fighters in the region after an attempt by Iraqi security forces to storm and recapture Hit failed.
Islamic State gunmen took control of the Al-Dolab district 10 kilometers west of Hit on December 11, Middle East Eye reported on December 12.
"Al-Araby al-Jadid" quoted a source in the Anbar Operations Command as saying that Islamic State control of the area would disrupt supply and communication lines between Hit and Ramadi.
Naim al-Gaud, a tribal leader from the Albu Nimr tribe, which is fighting Islamic State, said that the clashes between tribal forces and militants resulted in IS gunmen seizing control of the area west of Ramadi and taking weapons left after Iraqi security forces retreated.
Reports that IS gunmen have made gains west of Ramadi come after a failed attempt on December 11 by Iraqi police, army, and security forces to penetrate into Hit.
An RFE/RL correspondent reported that Iraqi security forces had launched an major military operation to liberate Hit, which is under IS control. The Iraqi forces were unable to penetrate into Hit, the correspondent said. At least 11 Iraqi security forces were killed in the assault, including the commander of the 7th Brigade, Brigadier Haytham al-Juburi.
Reports from Anbar suggest that IS militants were able to move into the Al-Dolab area west of Hit in a counterattack to the December 11 assault.
Middle East Eye quoted a police source from Anbar as saying that IS militants had surprised the Iraqi security forces with "a large group of tanks and armored vehicles which moved west from Hit city to the Al-Dolab area."
The source said that Iraqi forces had to retreat westward toward Baghdad.
The Turkish Anadolu news agency said that Islamic State had besieged 450 tribal fighters in that counterattack.
An Iraqi security source told Anadolu that IS militants had moved with the tanks and armored cars to take the Al-Jazeera road and had trapped the 450 fighters.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk