Sunni militants ‘seize Iraq’s western border crossings’

iraq

he Iraqi government appears to have lost control of its western borders after Sunni militants reportedly captured crossings to Syria and Jordan.

Officials said the rebels took two key crossings in Anbar on Sunday, a day after seizing one at Qaim, a town in the province that borders Syria.

The strategically important airport in the northern town of Tal Afar has also reportedly fallen to the rebels.

Isis-led militants have cut a swathe through parts of Iraq.

Since the fall of Mosul in early June, Isis – theĀ Islamic State in Iraq and the LevantĀ – have helped win large areas in the west and north.

They have taken four strategically important towns in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province – Qaim, Rutba, Rawa and Anah – in the last two days.

Gunmen reportedly captured the border posts of al-Waleed, on the Syrian frontier, and Turaibil, on the Jordanian border, on Sunday after government forces pulled out.

The capture of frontier crossings could help Isis transport weapons and other equipment to different battlefields, analysts say.

The funeral of a senior army officer who was killed in the fighting for Qaim on Friday was targeted by a suicide and car bomb attack in Ramadi. At least six people were killed as they gathered to mourn Brig Gen Majid al-Fahdawi.

US ‘stooges’

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday he opposed any US intervention, and accused Washington of “seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges”.

“The main dispute in Iraq is between those who want Iraq to join the US camp and those who seek an independent Iraq,” he said, dismissing talk of sectarianism.

The US, which pulled out of Iraq in 2011, is deploying some 300 military advisers to Iraq to help in the fight against the insurgents.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Cairo on Sunday, urged Iraq’s leaders “to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people”.

He said it was a “critical moment” and warned that Isis’ “ideology of violence and repression is a threat not only to Iraq but to the entire region”.

Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar say Isis militants make up only a small number of the fighters involved in taking over the province – most are tribes people and former security personnel from the Saddam Hussein era.

Shaikh Raad al-Suleiman, a senior figure in Ramadi, said the reason they had captured so much territory was because soldiers in the Iraqi army were not prepared to fight.

“Most of the officers and men came to their senses, left their arms, guns and vehicles and fled out of Anbar,” he said.