Members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) thrust east from a newly-captured Iraqi-Syrian border post on Sunday, seizing three Iraqi towns in the western Anbar province as well as two border crossings, in a push to evict government security forces from Sunni Muslim areas, witnesses and security sources said.
ISIL, an Al-Qaeda splinter group, has pushed the Iraqi army from cities and towns across Iraq's north and west over the past two weeks, shocking the Shi'ite-led government.
ISIL fighters seized the Turaibil broder crossing, which touches Jordan, and the al-Walid crossing with Syria. The seizures come a week after fighters made one of their biggest gains, seizing the border post near the town of Qaim.
The capture of Syrian border crossings could be especially helpful for ISIL, which has exploited the chaos of the three-year-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad to establish a major presence there.
ISIL's stated aim is to create an Islamic caliphate that ignores boundaries set by colonial powers a century ago. Sunni tribes in the mostly desert border regions span both sides of the frontier.