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Australia, Iraq Discuss Training, Military Aid to Fight IS Group

  • VOA News

Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, right, and his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, take part in a press conference in Baghdad, Jan. 4, 2015.

Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, right, and his Australian counterpart, Tony Abbott, take part in a press conference in Baghdad, Jan. 4, 2015.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Sunday, met with top officials, telling them his country is determined to provide support to Iraq in its fight against terrorism.

Abbott and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi discussed bilateral military cooperation between the two countries, including the training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers, state television reported.

Abadi also asked Abbott to step up military aid to Baghdad in its fight against the Islamic State group.

In a statement released by Abadi’s office, he called on Australia to "increase the arming and speed up the training and distribution of what is needed by the Iraqi forces to decide the battle and eliminate the (IS) organization," the French news agency AFP reported.

US-led coalition

Australia was one of the first countries to join a U.S.-led coalition intent on the destruction of the Islamic State group, with Australian fighter jets involved in bombing Islamic State targets in northern Iraq. Also, 200 Australian special forces troops soon will enter Iraq to advise and assist local security forces.

The Islamic State group offensive in Iraq began last June, and the group's rapid expansion and brutality in areas it controls in Iraq and neighboring Syria eventually sparked an international campaign against it.

The mainly Sunni Islamist group now holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria in its self-declared caliphate.

Meanwhile Sunday, police said mortar shells slammed into several houses in the Shiite village of Sabaa al-Bour, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) north of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding seven, The Associated Press reported.

Elsewhere, police said a bomb blast on a commercial street killed two people and wounded six in western Baghdad.

Medical officials confirmed the casualties. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

Also Sunday, the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on Saturday.

Six airstrikes struck Islamic State targets near Kobani, and one airstrike occurred near Mosul, the command said.

Some material for this report came from AP and AFP.

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