BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi troops backed by Shiite militiamen and Kurdish security forces recaptured two eastern towns from Islamic State group militants after fierce clashes, officials said Monday.
Police in Diyala province said Iraqi forces entered the towns of Saadiya and Jalula late Sunday after heavy fighting with the Sunni extremist group, which controls territory in Iraq and Syria. The fighting continued Monday, with some pockets of resistance outside the two towns, police officials said, adding that teams were defusing roadside bombs. Some families that fled the area have started to return, they said.
Diyala saw heavy fighting between Sunni and Shiite militants at the height of Iraq's sectarian bloodletting in 2006 and 2007. It also has a sizable Kurdish population.
Islamic State militants seized Jalula and Saadiya in August after a stunning blitz across northern and western Iraq.
Meanwhile Monday, a car bomb near a crowded Baghdad marketplace in the mainly Sunni Shaab neighborhood killed nine people and wounded 20, police said. No one immediately claimed responsibility. Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures.
Baghdad has endured near-daily bombings for months, most of which have targeted Shiite areas and have been blamed on the Islamic State group and other Sunni extremists.
Monday night, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a security checkpoint at the country's border crossing with Jordan, killing three soldiers, officials at the border crossing said. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief journalists.
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also met with Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, according to a statement issued by the premier's office.
U.S. Central Command also said coalition aircraft carried out 15 airstrikes in Iraq and nine in Syria over the past four days targeting the Islamic State group.
Associated Press writer Vivian Salama contributed to this report.