Iraqi forces restoring control of besieged area in west: police chief

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi forces are "restoring control" to one area in Anbar province, while fighting is ongoing in another area in the region where Islamic State insurgents surrounded two army camps over the past week, Anbar's police chief said on Thursday.

"Currently, the Iraqi forces regiments are restoring control to the Sijir area," Anbar police chief Ahmed Saddag told Reuters. Sijir is about an hour's drive west of the capital Baghdad.

"In Albu Etha, there is no control until now. The enemy Daesh is in control of Albu Etha from the northern side," he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group that calls itself Islamic State.

On Wednesday, an Iraqi soldier told Reuters that around 200 soldiers were trapped in the Albu Etha camp and were running short of food, water and ammunition.

Similarly, Islamic State insurgents on Sunday overran an army base in Saqlawiya, just 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, killing or capturing 400 to 600 soldiers, a senior Iraqi security official said.

Saddag said 155 soldiers had died in that attack, 89 soldiers were missing and 104 were wounded. He said 897 soldiers were freed in Sijir and Saqlawiya.

The government said it had detained two commanders for negligence over the Saqlawiya incident, which exposed the weakness of the army.

The military crumbled this summer, as Islamic State took control of roughly a third of Iraq, and it has been bogged down since January in Anbar province, the site of a major road linking Syria and Iraq.

Islamic State has declared a caliphate in the territory it controls in the two countries. Washington has launched air strikes in both to try to dislodge the radical Islamists, but has so far failed to stop them from carrying out attacks.

(Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Hugh Lawson)