Two attacks by three suicide bombers have killed at least 30 Iraqi soldiers and security personnel in the country’s western Anbar province.
Tuesday’s attacks, which security sources said were undertaken by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), targeted an army checkpoint and a mosque on the same day the Iraqi army marked its 94th anniversary.
Security sources told Al Jazeera that at least seven soldiers were killed and 13 wounded in a morning attack involving a car bomb at an army checkpoint at the Wadi Houran bridge near the town of Haditha.
Later on Tuesday, two suicide bombers, followed by gunmen, struck a mosque in the town of al-Jubba town, where soldiers were believed to have been resting.
At least 10 soldiers and 13 security personnel died in the attack and subsequent clashes.
At least 24 ISIL fighters were reportedly killed in Tuesday’s clashes and were said to be now in control of the town.
Al-Jubba town is located near the al-Asad military base – where US military personnel are deployed – and the town of Baghdadi, an area that has seen heavy fighting between Iraqi security forces and ISIL.
Analysis from our correspondent: Imran Khan
|Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan|
Anbar province has proved the toughest fight for Iraqi forces for a number of reasons. The Iraqi province shares a long border with Syria, and ISIL regularly crosses it with reinforcements from territories that they control in Syria.
There are also intense Sunni tribal rivalries: pro-government Sunni tribes have long complained that the Iraqi government and the coalition isn’t giving them the weapons and support that they need to defeat ISIL.
Meanwhile, other Sunni groups have joined forces with ISIL, and although they may not support ISIL’s goal of an Islamic State, they do see the armed group’s fight against the government as something they can support.
What is key now is ISIL’s control of al-Jubba village – only 2km away from the main military base of Ain al-Assad, where a number of US troops are training Iraqi forces. We’ve seen ISIL take control of a village near a military base before and use it as a launch pad for attacks. That presents another challenge, as not only do the US need to train those troops but base security is once again in focus – a further strain on resources both US and Iraqi.
Army ‘not fit to fight’
Tuesday’s attacks come as the Iraqi army marks its 94th anniversary. But instead of its usual big military parade, this year’s celebrations were reduced to a wreath laying ceremony.
The army has been engaged with several challenges, including battling ISIL fighters who have seized large parts of the country.
The US announced in 2012 that it had spent $25bn on Iraq’s security forces, including 200,000 soldiers.
However, there have been large scale desertions since then, with about 30,000 soldiers fled from an ISIL advance on Mosul in June.
In September 2014, US Military General Martin Dempsey said that nearly half of Iraq’s army was not properly equipped or trained and not fit to fight.
The general has asked for $1.6bn dollars to recruit and train 45,000 more Iraqi soldiers.