Islamic State militants reportedly have killed at least 25 members of a Sunni Muslim tribe in a village on the eastern edge of the provincial capital Ramadi, in apparent revenge for tribal opposition to the radical Islamists.
Local officials said bodies of Albu Fahd tribemen were discovered by the Iraqi army when it launched a counteroffensive Saturday against Islamic State near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
"While they were combing the territories they are liberating, security forces found 25 corpses in the Shujariya area," Hathal Al-Fahdawi, an Anbar Provincial Council member, told Reuters.
Albu Fahd tribal leader Sheik Rafie al-Fahdawi said he expected the death toll to increase significantly. He said the bodies were found scattered around with no signs of weapons next to them, suggesting they were not killed during fighting.
Last month, IS fighters killed hundreds of Albu Nimr tribe members in an attempt to break local resistance in Anbar, the Sunni Muslim province they have largely controlled for nearly a year.
IS fighters, who have seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, continue to gain territory in Anbar despite three months of U.S.-led airstrikes launched against the group.
On Friday, the Islamic State group launched coordinated attacks in central and outlying areas of Ramadi, a city already mostly in its hands.
The road from Ramadi to the military airbase of Habbaniya — about 25 kilometers, or 15 miles, to the east — remained under Islamic State control Saturday, preventing the army from reinforcing security in the city, Fahdawi said.
He said tribal fighters backed by army tanks were trying to secure the road to allow forces through from Habbaniya.
More bodies found
In northern Iraq, a farmer near the city of Mosul discovered around 60 bodies believed to be those of prisoners killed by Islamic State fighters when they overran the city's Badush prison June 10, witnesses said Saturday.
The bodies were found after heavy rain disturbed their mass grave. The United Nations said up to 670 prisoners from Badush were killed by Islamic State five months ago.
The Islamic State's lightning offensive through northern Iraq in June plunged the country into its gravest security crisis since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and raised concerns that its radical ideology will spread.