BAGHDAD (AP) — A series of suicide attacks by the Islamic State group outside a town in Iraq's western Anbar province on Tuesday killed 12 soldiers and allied Sunni militiamen, military and hospital officials said.
They said the attack began when IS militants shelled army and militia positions outside the town of Haditha with mortars. They followed up with two suicide bombers who blew themselves up near the troops and later with three suicide car bombings. Five soldiers and three Sunni tribesmen were wounded in the attacks, the officials said.
Airstrikes by the U.S.-led alliance destroyed six IS vehicles and killed 13 militants as they approached the site, where heavy clashes erupted, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Much of the vast and predominantly Sunni Anbar province is under IS control, including the provincial capital Ramadi and the key city of Fallujah. Haditha, on the Euphrates river and home to a major dam and hydroelectric power station, is in government hands. The IS group, which controls most of northern and western Iraq, has repeatedly tried to seize the town.
The government of Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region, meanwhile, said IS militants fired a homemade rocket carrying "chemical substances" at Kurdish peshmerga forces near the Mosul Dam in northern Iraq on Monday.
"Upon impact, the canister produced yellow smoke," said Tuesday's statement by the Kurdistan Region Security Council.
"We are working with the (U.S.-led) International Coalition to collect samples for immediate tests abroad. This is one of (an) increasing number of attacks in recent months suspected of carrying chemical substances," it added.
U.S. officials have been looking into reports that IS militants used mustard gas in a recent attack, also on Kurdish forces in Iraq. A senior U.S. military officer said last month that preliminary tests show traces of the chemical agent on IS mortars.
The United Nations said Tuesday that a total of 1,325 Iraqis were killed and another 1,811 were wounded in violence during the month of August. Of those killed, 585 were civilians, it said.
Baghdad province, which includes the capital and its outlying districts, was the worst-affected part of the country, with 318 killed and 751 injured, said the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq in its monthly report.
The figures for civilian casualties in August were sharply down from the previous month, when 844 were killed, and the lowest since April.
A further 488 members of Iraq's security forces, including Kurdish peshmerga fighters, Interior Ministry SWAT forces and tribal militiamen, were killed and another 492 were wounded in August. The figures don't include casualties in Anbar, where intense fighting has raged for close to two years.
Associated Press reporter Bram Janssen in Irbil, Iraq contributed to this report.