Fractures emerge in ISIS-Baathist alliance as violence sweeps Iraq

The New York Times reports: The violent struggle over Iraq on Saturday consumed cities and towns widely spread over the north and west of the country, with neither the Sunni militants nor the Iraqi army seeming to gain major ground.

The fighting also was one of the first times fissures appeared in the extremist Sunni coalition led by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with a battle between that group and its Baathist allies killing 17.

In Baghdad, a bomb exploded in a market in the predominantly Shiite Zafaraniya area, killing four shoppers. Three hours later, two men were found dumped nearby, handcuffed and shot to death. The victims were likely to be Sunnis since the area is controlled by Shiite militiamen.

In the insurgent-held city of Tikrit, in Salahuddin Province, the morgue at the hospital reported that it had received 84 bodies of policemen, soldiers and government employees who had been executed. Seven of them had been beheaded, according to an official there, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering the insurgents.

In western Anbar Province, two more towns fell to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, near the border town of Qaim, which fell to the rebels on Friday. Reports from officials at the scene said 34 Iraqi soldiers were killed on Friday as hundreds of militants overran Qaim.

A local government leader, Muthana al-Rawi, said the two towns taken Saturday, Ana and Rawaa, fell after troops and police officers fled Qaim and “sleeper cells of the militants showed up to fill the gap and take control over the two towns.”

Eyewitnesses from another border town, Al Waleed, said the Syrian air force had bombed ISIS troops who were trying to attack and capture it, as well. If Al Waleed fell, that would leave the Iraqi government without control of a single border crossing to Syria. [Continue reading…]

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