BAGHDAD: Islamic State insurgents killed at least 17 Iraqi soldiers with suicide truck bombs on Thursday in a major attack on government forces that recaptured the western city of Ramadi in December, military officials said.
The militant group also killed two policemen and wounded eight others in two suicide bombings in Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad, a day after killing at least 80 people in bombings at an outdoor market and two checkpoints inside the capital.
The attacks near Ramadi dealt one of the heaviest blows to the army since it drove Islamic State out of the western city five months ago.
An army colonel told Reuters that militants killed at least 17 soldiers with suicide truck bombs in Jarayshi, 10 km north of Ramadi.
They also surrounded an army regiment, seized a bridge and cut a key supply route linking Ramadi to the Thirthar district further north, army sources said.
An officer said the attack appeared designed to delay an expected army offensive into a nearby region that would have completely severed militant supply routes to Falluja, the Islamic State-held city on the western approaches to Baghdad that Iraqi forces have ringed for more than six months.
Another officer said reinforcements had arrived to the area to help clear the militants out of houses where they had taken up positions.
As Islamic State has been pushed out of key towns and cities it seized in 2014, it has resorted increasingly to guerrilla-style attacks in civilian areas under the nominal Iraqi government control.
The toll from Wednesday’s three suicide bombings in Baghdad made it the deadliest day in Baghdad so far this year.
Police sources said Thursday’s bombers approached a police station in Abu Ghraib from two directions before detonating their explosives.
Baghdad Operations Command, one of the security organs charged with protecting the capital, said a third assailant was killed on approach to the police station.
Amaq news agency, which supports Islamic State, said two militants had clashed with police at al-Zeidan station before setting off their explosives-filled vests.
Violence against security forces and civilians has persisted since Baghdad became the target of almost daily bombings a decade ago following the US-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.
A recent surge in bombings has heightened criticism of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as he grapples with a political crisis over his attempts to overhaul his cabinet to weed out corruption and mismanagement.
Lawmakers balking at ceding vested interests targeted by Abadi have failed to convene parliament since protesters loyal to powerful Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a vocal advocate of dismantling Iraq’s quota-based governing system, breached the heavily-fortified Green Zone district two weeks ago and took over the assembly complex for several hours.