BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State fighters executed 12 Shi’ite militiamen north of Baghdad after heavy fighting for control of a rural village, security sources said on Sunday.
Army and police officials said Iraqi security forces and the Shi‘ite militia fighters launched an attack on Friday against Islamic State militants on Tal al-Thahab, near the town of Balad, 80km (50 miles) north of the Iraqi capital.
They managed to drive the militants from their base in Tal al-Thahab police station on Friday, but hours later the Islamic State fighters returned and surrounded it, trapping dozens of security forces and militiamen inside.
”Supporting troops with cover from army helicopter reached the area and managed to break the siege. We have confirmation from our sources that 12 volunteer fighters were executed on Saturday by terrorists,” said an army intelligence officer on condition of anonymity.
Balad’s mayor, Amir Abdul Hadi, confirmed that some of the Shi’ite militiamen were executed by Islamic State near Balad and others were missing after Friday’s battle, but said he did not have details. Officials said 10 militiamen were missing.
Sources at Balad hospital said they had received at least six bodies of militia fighters believed to have been killed in the first wave of fighting on Friday.
Balad, which houses a shrine to a revered Shi‘ite imam, is one of several towns north of Baghdad which has seen heavy fighting between Islamic State fighters, who control large parts of north and west Iraq, and Iraqi security forces and pro-government Shi‘ite militia.
Security and local officials said more Shi’ite militia fighters were gathering in Balad to try to drive out Islamic State militants from areas surrounding the town.
“We have asked the residents to stock food and basic material to prepare for an imminent military operation against the terrorists around Balad,” one official said.
In the town of Tarmiya, between Balad and Baghdad, militants detonated a car bomb overnight at a security checkpoint before attacking with guns. Five police and three civilians were killed, security and medical sources said.
Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Editing by Dominic Evans