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Iraqi security forces stage major counter-attack against militants

As many as 279 “terrorists” have been killed in the past 24 hours, security officials said.

Iraqi Shiite fighters deploy with their weapons in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad.
Iraqi Shiite fighters deploy with their weapons in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad.
Image: AP Photo/Nabil Al-Juran

Iraqi security forces have killed 279 “terrorists” in the past 24 hours, as they push back against a major militant offensive, a security spokesman has said.

Meanwhil, former UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi blamed the crisis on global neglect of Syria’s civil war.

Washington responded to the sweeping unrest by deploying an aircraft carrier to the Gulf, but Iran has warned against foreign military intervention in its Shiite neighbour, voicing confidence that Baghdad is able to repel the onslaught.

The militants, spearheaded by the powerful Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadist group, have overrun all of one province and chunks of three more since they launched their offensive late on Monday.

Security forces have generally performed poorly, with some abandoning their vehicles and positions and discarding their uniforms, though they seem to have begun to recover from the initial onslaught and have started to regain ground.

Two towns recaptured

Iraqi commanders have said security forces were now starting to push the militants back, and that soldiers had recaptured two towns north of Baghdad.

They will be joined by a flood of volunteers, urged on by a call to arms from top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

A recruitment centre for such volunteers at the town of Khales in central Iraq came under mortar attack on Sunday, leaving six people dead, including three Iraqi soldiers, police and a doctor said.

US President Barack Obama said he was “looking at all the options” to halt the offensive that has brought the militants within 50 miles (80 kilometres) of Baghdad’s city limits, but ruled out any return of US combat troops.

Washington has also ordered aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush into the Gulf in response to the crisis.

- © AFP, 2014

Tony Blair: Syrian war to blame for Iraq violence, not 2003 invasion >

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