IS conflict: Iraq air strikes 'target militant convoy'

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Media caption,
The Iraqi Ministry of Defence footage apparently shows air strikes on "a large convoy of hundreds of vehicles"

A convoy carrying suspected Islamic State militants has been destroyed in air strikes near the Iraqi city of Falluja, the defence ministry says.

An Iraqi security source told the BBC the jihadists had been attempting to flee an offensive by government forces, who recently recaptured Falluja.

They were bombed by Iraqi air force planes as they headed for IS territory near the border with Syria, he added.

Photos purportedly of the scene showed about a dozen burned-out vehicles.

On Sunday, the Iraqi government announced that Falluja, about 50km (30 miles) west of the capital Baghdad, was fully under its control after a five-week offensive by security forces and allied militias.

The security source, who asked not to be named, told the BBC that a large number of militants fleeing the assault had gathered in the al-Ruwaila area.

They had planned to drive through Iraq's western desert to the IS-held town of al-Qaim, near the border of Anbar province with Syria, he added.

Image source, Iraqi Ministy of Defence
Image caption,
The defence ministry said dozens of vehicles in the convoy were destroyed

Acting on intelligence, Iraqi air force warplanes carried out a series of strikes on the convoy west of the town of Amariyat al-Falluja late on Tuesday, killing many militants, the source said.

Those who survived the raids were believed to have fled towards nearby Lake Razzaza and Lake Habbaniya.

A statement issued by the Iraqi defence ministry cited Gen Hamid al-Maliki, head of the Army Aviation Command, as saying that dozens of vehicles were destroyed in the strikes, which he said were continuing.

The security source added that the head of the Badr Organisation, a powerful Shia militia, had sent fighters to the area in case the militants tried to attack the Shia shrine city of Karbala, to the south.

There was no immediate comment on the strikes from the US-led coalition against IS, which provided extensive air support for the Falluja offensive.

Also on Wednesday, the US said it would make $2.7bn (£2bn) available to the Iraqi government to help pay for its war against IS.

The loan will fund ammunition purchases and the maintenance of fighter planes, tanks and other military equipment.

The cost of the war is a major burden on the Iraqi economy at a time when it is struggling to cope with the dramatic slump in the price of oil, its major export.