BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State militants detonated a car bomb and then opened fire on Iraqi troops in the western province of Anbar on Thursday, killing 14 soldiers, security sources said.
Iraqi government forces and their Shi‘ite militia allies are hoping to recapture Anbar’s provincial capital, Ramadi, which was seized by the ultra-hardline Sunni insurgents last month.
Islamic State swept through northern Iraq last year and has since taken control of a third of the country, a major oil producer and OPEC member. It also holds large swathes of Syria.
Twenty-seven soldiers were also wounded in Thursday’s attack in Anbar’s Nadheem al-Taqseem region.
In the town of Hit, west of Ramadi, artillery fire and rocket attacks targeted the local irrigation department, killing nine people and wounding 13.
The defense ministry said in a statement that security forces killed three Islamic State militants and a sniper in the district of Garma.
Security forces also killed four Sunni insurgents attempting to enter the country’s biggest refinery, near Baiji, said the ministry. The complex, a focal point in government efforts to contain Islamic State, has changed hands several times.
Iraq’s army relies on U.S.-led air strikes and a Shi‘ite umbrella fighting group known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or popular mobilization committee, in its bid to slow the advance of Islamic State.
Kurdish fighters in the north are also seen as a critical force in the battle against the Sunni insurgents.
Reporting by Baghdad bureau; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Larry King