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Militants seize Iraqi town as security forces withdraw


08:21, April 25, 2013

BAGHDAD, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Militants took control of a town in northern Iraq Wednesday evening after day-long clashes with security forces, a police source said.

Iraqi security forces have completely withdrawn from Sulaiman Bek, some 170 km north of Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens of others were injured in the fierce clashes, which occurred when Iraqi security forces backed by helicopters stormed the town in the early morning hours, after dozens of militants seized the town late Tuesday night.

"Since the dawn the security forces are engaging in fierce battles to retake the town. We have many killed or wounded in the battles," a local official told Xinhua earlier.

The helicopters were bombing the central part of the town and providing support to the troops which were trying to drive the militants out of the town, the official added.

The fierce clashes forced many local families to leave the town, he said.

In a separate incident, a booby-trapped car went off near a police patrol in the town of Tarmiyah, some 40 km north of Baghdad, killing two policemen and a civilian and wounding eight people, a local police source told Xinhua.

Elsewhere, three gunmen were killed when they attacked a police checkpoint in Tal-Ubtta area, located west of the city of Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, the police said.

In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, three members of anti- Qaida Sunni paramilitary group, also named Awakening Council group, were killed and three others were wounded when gunmen attacked their checkpoint at a village near the provincial capital city of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, a provincial police source anonymously told Xinhua.

In addition, a roadside bomb struck an Iraqi army patrol wounding two soldiers in Qara-Tappa area, some 110 km north of Baquba, while two civilians were wounded by a bomb explosion outside their house in the city of Jalawlaa, some 70 km north of Baquba, the police said.

Wednesday's violence came a day after clashes erupted between Iraqi security forces and anti-government Sunni protesters in Hawijah, where hundreds of security members backed by helicopters stormed a sit-in by Sunni Arabs. The operation sparked further clashes across Iraq between the Sunni tribes and the security forces.

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