Iraqi troops retake 2 towns in eastern province

An Iraqi Shiite fighter walks past walls painted with the Islamist State flag, after Shiite fighters and Iraqi security forces took control of Saadiya in Diyala province from ISIS, November 24, 2014.

An Iraqi Shiite fighter walks past walls painted with the Islamist State flag, after Shiite fighters and Iraqi security forces took control of Saadiya in Diyala province from ISIS, November 24, 2014.

Iraqi troops backed by Shiite militiamen and Kurdish security forces have recaptured two eastern towns from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants after fierce clashes, Iraqi officials said Monday.

Police officials in the Diyala province said that Iraqi forces entered the towns of Saadiya and Jalula late Sunday after fierce clashes with fighters from the Sunni extremist group, which controls much of northwestern Iraq and northeastern Syria.

The fighting is still continuing with some pockets of resistance outside the two towns, the police officials said, adding that teams are working to defuse roadside bombs planted by the militants before their withdrawal.

Some families that fled the area have already started to return to their homes, the officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The communally mixed Diyala province saw heavy fighting between Sunni and Shiite militants at the height of the country”s sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007. It also has a sizable Kurdish population.

ISIS militants seized Jalula and Saadiya in August after a stunning blitz across northern and western Iraq.

Also on Monday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, according to a statement issued by the premier’s office.

Al-Abadi said Iraqi security forces are pressing ahead with efforts to “liberate” all the territories seized by the IS group. “We are working hard to bring life back to the cities that have been liberated and we are working on post-liberation plans,” he said.

 
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