Sunni fighters have captured two towns on the Iraq-Syria border, according to security sources.
The militants, who are led by the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (Isis), seized the town of al-Qaim from security forces on Friday, according to sources.
Security forces in the town of Rawah on the Euphrates River abandoned their posts along the Iraq-Syria frontier as they heard that al-Qaim had been overcome by fighters, allowing militants to seize the second town today.
The capture of the two towns represents another setback for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which has struggled to resist Islamic extremists from seizing large parts of the country’s northwest, including the second-largest city of Mosul.
Al-Qaim and its neighbouring Syrian counterpart Albukamal are on a strategic supply route. A three-year civil war in Syria has left most of eastern Syria in the hands of Sunni militants, including the Albukamal-Qaim crossing.
The border post is a strategic gain for the militants, which could allow them to move heavy weapons between territory they control in both countries, the sources said.
President Barack Obama has offered up to 300 US special forces advisers to help the Iraqi government recapture territory seized by Isis and other Sunni armed groups across northern and western Iraq.
Additional reporting: Reuters