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Islamic State attacks Iraqi police near Najaf, kills seven

02nd January 2017, 12:00 Hrs

AGENCIES

MOSUL/HILLA, Iraq

Islamic State attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint near the southern city of Najaf on Sunday, killing seven policemen as government forces in the north made more gains against the militants in Mosul, their last major stronghold in the country.

The Najaf attack, which involved gunmen and a suicide car bomb, followed blasts a day earlier in Baghdad that left 29 people dead, a reminder of Islamic State's continued ability to operate away from territory under its control.

The recapture of Mosul would probably spell the end for the group's self-styled caliphate in it areas seized in 2014, but the militants would still be capable of fighting a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plotting or inspiring attacks on the West.

Since the U.S.-backed offensive began on Oct. 17, elite forces have retaken a quarter of Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said the group would be driven out of the country by April.

The second phase of the campaign launched on Thursday following weeks of deadlock has pushed Islamic State out of several more areas despite fierce resistance.

The fourth day of the renewed push saw incremental advances on the eastern and southeastern fronts.

A military statement said the counter-terrorism forces had retaken part of Karama district.

A federal police officer said Iraqi forces had taken near total control of Intisar and Siha neighbourhoods, and were clearing Salam.

"For the fourth day in a row, federal police units supported by the army are on the offensive," he told Reuters at a forward base in Intisar.

The attack near Najaf, 500 km (310 mile) south of Mosul, happened when two vehicles travelling through the desert were stopped at a police checkpoint around al-Qadisiya town, local police sources said.

The driver detonated an explosive load and the second vehicle fled. Police pursued it and killed the two militants inside.

In a statement distributed online by supporters, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded 17 people including civilians. It said four gunmen had opened fire before detonating explosive vests and then a fifth assailant launched a suicide car bomb.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile those accounts.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/reuters/article-4079822/Islamic-State-attacks-Iraqi-police-near-Najaf-kills-seven.html#ixzz4UW7gIOcu

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