ISIS extremists kill 16 border guards in western Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) - At least 16 Iraqi border guards were killed on Monday in a dawn assault by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group on their post near the Syrian border, provincial and security officials said.

"Sixteen border guards, including a captain, were killed and four wounded in an attack targeting their headquarters in Al-Walid, near the Syrian border," Faleh al-Issawi, deputy head of the Anbar provincial council, told AFP. He said the attack occurred at around 6 am (11am Singapore time).

A commander in the Iraqi border force and a police major confirmed the death toll. Despite the attack, "Al-Walid is still in the hands of Iraqi forces," the major said.

The crossing is one of the country's most remote outposts and lies 500km west of Baghdad near the westernmost point in Anbar province where the borders of Iraq, Syria and Jordan meet. Extremist fighters briefly held Al-Walid border crossing on June 23 but it has remained in government hands since.

Parts of the vast Anbar province, which also borders Saudi Arabia, have been out of government control since the start of the year, months before ISIS launched a major offensive across Iraq in June.

Government forces backed by US-led airstrikes, Kurdish forces, Sunni tribal fighters and Shi'ite militiamen have in recent weeks gradually clawed back some of the land lost since June.

But ISIS fighters have held their ground in Anbar and tried to tighten their grip on the province by attacking government positions and buildings in its capital Ramadi.