Clashes with IS in Iraq kill 23 troops, allied fighters
BAGHDAD — A suicide blast targeting Iraqi security forces and subsequent clashes with Islamic State extremists on Tuesday killed at least 23 troops and progovernment Sunni fighters in the country’s embattled western province of Anbar, officials said.
The day’s heavy toll for the Iraqi forces came as they struggle in battles against the Islamic State and try to claw back territory lost to the extremists during the militants’ blitz last year. Iraq’s prime minister vowed Tuesday to dislodge the militants from all areas under their control.
Police officials said a suicide bomber first struck a gathering of progovernment Sunni fighters near the town of al-Baghdadi, about 110 miles northwest of Baghdad, in the morning hours.
Soon after, militants attacked nearby army and police positions, setting off hours-long clashes. Police and hospital officials said 23 were killed and 28 were wounded in all on the government side. They did not give the death toll on the militants’ side, saying only that the attackers ‘‘sustained some casualties.’’
In Baghdad, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi pledged that Iraq’s forces would retake all areas that fell to militants.
‘‘We will emerge as victorious and the day our lands are liberated is nearing,’’ Abadi told a group of newly graduated army officers, speaking at the Military Academy as Iraq marked Army Day. ‘‘Our goal . . . is that peace and prosperity prevail in Iraq and end this dark period in Iraqi history.’’
A parade was also staged to mark the day, with jet fighters, helicopters, and transport planes flying overhead.