RAMADI, Iraq, Aug. 23 (UPI) — At least 18 members of Iraq’s security forces were killed and 30 wounded in clashes Sunday with Islamic State militants northwest of Ramadi, capital of Iraq’s Anbar province.
Xinhua news agency quoted a provincial security source as saying IS forces likewise lost 13 fighters during the battle, which occurred in the areas of Twai and Albu Jleib and saw seven military vehicles, manned by Iraqi troops and Iran-trained Shia militiamen, destroyed in roadside bombings.
Iraqi government forces on July 26 said they had captured the Anbar University, a command headquarters for IS fighters in the city, and two days later claimed to haverepelled a coordinated IS counter-attack on the facility. IS fighters reportedly used truck bombs to initiate the attack and more than a dozen roadside bombs to ambush a relief convoy.
The Iraqi military has fought back-and-forth battles with IS forces in Anbar province since June 2014, when the extremists spilled over from Syria and captured large portions of northern and western Iraq, including Mosul, in the northern Nineveh province, where an estimated 30,000 Iraqi soldiers dropped weapons and ran from 800 attacking IS fighters.
In April, Iraqi army troops, bolstered by Shia militias known as Hashd al-Shaabi and U.S-led coalition air power, were able to wrest control of Tikrit, in Salahuddin province to the north, from IS forces. However, the Hashd al-Shaabi had to be removed from the largely Sunni Muslim city following reports of atrocities and looting.
The U.S.-led coalition known as Operation Inherent Resolve began bombing IS forces in Iraq in August 2014 and reportedly conducted 16 airstrikes there on Sunday, killing 42 people and destroying several IS positions and vehicles.
An Aug. 13 statement by U.S. Central Command tallied 12 airstrikes in nine different Iraqi cities, including Ramadi, where two strikes hit a large IS tactical unit and destroyed three buildings, two vehicles and a recoilless rifle.
On Friday, U.S. officials said the deputy commander of IS forces was killed in an airstrike while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul last Tuesday.