Middle East

Islamic State militants 'burn to death 45 in Iraq'

Map of Iraq showing location of al-Baghdadi

Jihadist militants from Islamic State (IS) have burned to death 45 people in the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, the local police chief says.

Exactly who these people were and why they were killed is not clear, but Col Qasim al-Obeidi said he believed some were members of the security forces.

IS fighters captured much of the town, near Ain al-Asad air base, last week.

Col Obeidi said a compound that houses the families of security personnel and local officials was now under attack.

He pleaded for help from the government and the international community.

The fighting and poor communications in the area make it difficult to confirm such reports.

Earlier this month, IS published a video showing militants burning alive a Jordanian air force pilot, whose plane crashed in Syria in December.

Siege

Al-Baghdadi had been besieged for months by Islamic State fighters before its fall on Thursday.

It had been one of the few towns to still be controlled by the Iraqi government in Anbar province, where IS and allied Sunni Arab tribesmen launched an offensive in January 2014.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby told reporters on Friday that al-Baghdadi's capture needed to be put in perspective.

He said it was the first time in the last couple of months that the jihadist group had taken new ground.

However, Ain al-Asad air base, where about 320 US Marines are training members of the Iraqi army's 7th Division, is only 8km (5 miles) away.

The base was itself attacked by IS militants, among them several suicide bombers, on Friday. The militants were eventually repelled by Iraqi troops backed by US-led coalition aircraft.

In a separate development on Tuesday, the influential Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr announced he was withdrawing his forces from an umbrella group of Shia militia fighting IS alongside the Iraqi army.

He cited what he called the bad behaviour of other militia within the Popular Mobilisation Forces, whom he accused of "wreaking havoc through murdering, kidnapping and violating sanctuaries".

Shia militia have been accused of kidnapping and killing scores of Sunni civilians since Islamic State launched an offensive in northern Iraq last June that saw it seize large swathes of the country.