Fierce fighting rages near airbase in Iraq's Anbar

Security forces and allied Shia units suffer casualties as Al Habbaniyah airbase comes under fire from ISIL fighters.

    Iraqi government forces backed by Shia armed units have repelled two attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Anbar province, authorities say.

    Military sources have told Al Jazeera that the fighters used anti-tank missiles on Saturday to destroy at least four explosives-rigged vehicles driven by would-be suicide bombers during clashes between the two sides.

    The sources also said that 22 Iraqi soldiers and allied Shia fighters were killed after ISIL attacked the Al Habbaniyah airbase.

    ISIL fighters also reportedly attacked the government-held town of Husseiba with heavy mortar fire on the same day, but the attackers were forced to retreat after an hours-long battle.

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    Iraqi forces took Husseiba, near the ISIL-held provincial capital of Ramadi, from ISIL last month.

    Iraqi forces have also launched an offensive in an attempt to push back ISIL fighters in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad, the sources said.

    They said the troops killed at least 55 fighters in the battle.

    Meanwhile, at least 14 people have been killed after a car bomb exploded near a market in the Shia town of Balad Ruz, northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. 

    No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

    Iraqi forces, backed by Shia units, have been struggling to recapture areas lost to ISIL in the country's west and north.

    Last month ISIL scored a major victory, seizing Ramadi and capturing large amounts of ammunition and armoured vehicles from fleeing government troops.

    In the aftermath of the Ramadi defeat, Iraqi officials have stepped up calls for more weapons and more direct support from the US and the international community.

    During an international conference in Paris this week on the fight against ISIL, a senior US official pledged to make it easier to get weapons, including US anti-tank rockets, to the Iraqi soldiers who need them.

    Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad on Saturday, said government forces have taken over towns and villages in Anbar to cut off ISIL's supply lines, but need more help from the US.

    "In particular, anti-tank weapons are what the Iraqi forces are desperate for. They are the only real way to stop suicide car bombings," he said.


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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