Armed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) members have killed up to 50 soldiers and allied Shia fighters in two separate ambushes in Iraq’s Anbar province, according to a top provincial official.
Sabah Al-Karhout, president of the Anbar Provincial Council, told the AP news agency that the ambushes took place on Friday to the west of the provincial capital, Ramadi, but said he had no more details.
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There was no immediate word from federal authorities or ISIL, the AP said.
ISIL controls much of Anbar province, including Ramadi and the city of Fallujah.
Government forces and Shia fighters have been trying to dislodge the group from the province but they have been making slow progress.
On Saturday, Khalid al-Obeidi, the Iraqi defence minister, toured the military’s northern command in Anbar, according to a statement issued by his office.
During a meeting he told troops that forces there must use “caution and precision” when advancing to avoid “unjustified losses”.
Later, a statement posted on the ministry’s official website said Obeidi dismissed the commander of a brigade deployed in Anbar. It did not name the commander, but added that he failed to carry out his duties.
“There is no place for those who neglect to carry out their missions and duties. Those who want victory must be on the front line,” it quoted the minister as saying.
It was not immediately clear whether the minister visited because of the ambushes.
ISIL controls about a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria and has established a self-declared “caliphate” across its territory.