" Over a month agao, IS militants stunned the world when they stormed towns in the northern Iraq, seizing swathes of territory while continuing their advance on other parts of the country. "
Baghdad, Aug 21 - As many as 20 militants were killed Thursday as Iraqi forces backed by local fighters resisted Islamist militants' offensive to control major towns across the conflict-torn country, security sources said.

The Islamic State (IS), an Al Qaeda splinter group, launched an attack to seize Duluiyah town, 90 km from Iraqi capital Baghdad, but were repelled by police and Sunni tribal fighters, Xinhua quoted a police source as saying.

The clashes left at least eight militants dead, while two of the tribal fighters were wounded, the source said.

In other areas, at least 12 militants were killed in fierce battles between security forces and IS near Haditha, a city which is 200 km west of Baghdad, a provincial security source said.

Haditha and the nearby dam on the Euphrates river have witnessed several attacks by the Islamist militants who have been trying to wrestle control of the strategic dam.

However, their attempt was foiled by the joint operation of the security forces and local government-backed Sahwa paramilitary group members, the source added.

The Sahwa militia, also known as the Awakening Council or the Sons of Iraq, consists of armed groups, including some powerful anti-US Sunni insurgent groups who had opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The groups turned their rifles from the US forces to Al Qaeda network after rifts appeared between the Sunni tribes and the extremist Al Qaeda group which adopted hardline Islam and exercised indiscriminate killings against both Shia and Sunni Muslim communities.

IS has gained significant ground in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, especially in the Sunni areas.

Over a month agao, IS militants stunned the world when they stormed towns in the northern Iraq, seizing swathes of territory while continuing their advance on other parts of the country.

The fighting in Iraq has caused thousands to flee their homes, especially ethnic and religious minorities who have been targeted by the Islamist militants.


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