Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi forces repelled an attempt by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to capture a town on the road to Baghdad on Sunday, as a senior former Ba’athist admitted for the first time that he had allied with the organization.
Sources said that insurgents attacked the Al-Duloueyah area of the Salah Al-Din province, north of Baghdad, in an attempt to force open a route to the capital, but were repelled by police and local residents after fierce fighting.
A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said around 80 ISIS militants attacked the town from the north at dawn on Sunday, but were driven off after fighting their way to the town center.
The source added that up to 10 insurgents and four police officers were killed in the battle.
A senior security official in Tikrit, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The ISIS attack on Al-Duloueyah had a number of aims: first, to relieve the pressure caused by the advance of Iraqi forces towards the entrances of Tikrit . . . and try to open a new front to occupy the Iraqi forces, which has become a regular tactic used by ISIS.”
The source added: “The second reason is that controlling Al-Duloueyah is important to ISIS for the move on Baghdad, because the area is an open area, and it is 45 miles (70 kilometers) from the capital, even though they know the difficulty of the task due to the security and military cordons around Baghdad. However, they need the operation for media purposes to say they are getting closer to Baghdad.”
Meanwhile, in the first acknowledgment of the alliance between Ba’athists and ISIS, Izzat Al-Douri, a former deputy of late dictator Saddam Hussein, praised the armed groups, especially Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which took control of Mosul and Tikrit in June, in the first audio recording to be released since the start of hostilities.
Douri did not confirm or deny official Iraqi reports about the deaths of his sons Ahmad and Ibrahim in the fighting in Tikrit.
However, he said: “The successive victories in Anbar and Diyala and on the outskirts of Baghdad, and in Kirkuk, are a massive historic turning point in the nation’s jihadist course.”
Douri praised the roles of all armed groups, including the Naqshbandi Army, the Islamic Army in Iraq, and Jaysh Al-Mujahideen.
Douri, who has been in hiding since 2003, claimed: “The liberation of Baghdad is very near,” adding that “half of Iraq is no longer under the control of the government.”
Douri’s statement is the first since the announcement by tribal revolutionaries and other factions that their actions were a popular uprising against the policies of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.