WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraqi forces have cleared Islamic State fighters from the town of al-Baghdadi near a key base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi military troops, recapturing the police station and three bridges over the Euphrates, the U.S. military said on Friday.
Iraqi Security Forces and tribal militia from the Anbar region also pushed the Islamic State fighters from seven villages northwest of al-Baghdadi on the road to Haditha, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement.
Al-Baghdadi is located about 3 miles (5 km) northeast of Ain al-Asad air base, where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi military forces to help them confront Islamic State militants who overran part of northwestern Iraq last year.
Islamic State militants seized the bridges around al-Baghdadi in September. Fighting for control of al-Baghdadi stepped up in recent weeks, and a top U.S. commander said two weeks ago that Iraqi forces appeared to be on the verge of driving out the militants.
Lieutenant General James Terry, senior U.S. commander of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, told reporters the Iraqi army’s 7th Division, including one of its commando units, were joining tribal forces to retake the town.
The military’s statement on Friday said coalition air forces had supported the effort to retake al-Baghdadi, targeting Islamic State positions in and around the town with 26 air strikes between Feb. 22 and March 6. It also provided surveillance and advice to Iraqi military headquarters.
Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu