BAGHDAD (AP) — Back-to-back suicide attacks targeting Iraqi security forces near the Islamic State-held city of Ramadi on Wednesday killed at least 12 troops, officials said, as the government pressed on with efforts to reclaim territory under the extremists’ control.
The suicide bombers rammed explosives-laden Humvees into forces deployed outside of the University of Ramadi complex, two Iraqi officials told The Associated Press.
The officials — one with the Iraqi army, the other with the country’s elite counterterrorism forces — also said that eight Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the bombing.
Shortly afterward, clashes erupted southwest of Ramadi, killing one soldier and wounding eight others, the officials said, while 14 militants were also killed.
Iraqi government forces recaptured the university, located 5 kilometers (3 miles) south of Ramadi, from IS militants on Sunday as part of their push to reclaim ground across the embattled western Anbarprovince. IS captured Ramadi, the provincial capital, in mid-May.
Some militants were still holed up Wednesday in some buildings inside the university complex and ground forces have asked for airstrikes, the officials added. Some of the complex buildings and streets were rigged with bombs, preventing the Iraqi troops from moving easily. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.
Earlier this month, Iraqi military launched a large-scale operation to dislodge militants from Anbar, in which most of the biggest cities are held by the Islamic State group.
The fall of Ramadi recalled the collapse of Iraqi security forces last summer in the face of the Islamic State group’s blitz across Iraq that saw it capture a third of the country, where it has declared an Islamic caliphate, along with the territory it controls in neighboring Syria.
Government-backed forces, which include the Iraqi military, Shiite militias and Sunni tribes, are also currently assembling around the militant-held city of Fallujah, which was the first major city in Iraq to fall to the militant group in early 2014.