A series of attacks in and near Baghdad by the Islamic State group killed at least 15 people on Wednesday, Iraq medical and military officials said.
In a suicide bombing, Islamic State militants commandeered a tanker truck, filled it with explosives and drove it into a checkpoint south of the city of Samarra.
At least nine Iraqi soldiers and Shi’ite militia fighters were killed in the attack, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad.
The Islamic militants then attacked the Shi’ite fighters with mortar and machine gun fire, local police said. At least 22 people were wounded in the attack. A source at the Samarra Operations Command said clashes continued, according to Reuters.
Islamic State fighters, who control large swaths of western and northern Iraq, are battling the Iraqi army, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shi’ite militiamen. The group also faces airstrikes from a U.S.-led international coalition.
Elsewhere, bombs killed six people and wounded at least 18 others in and near Baghdad on Wednesday, police and medical sources said.
A soldier was killed and six wounded by a roadside bomb in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad.
And to the south, two civilians were killed and seven wounded in an explosion in the agricultural area of Arab-Jubour; and a third bomb, which struck near an outdoor market in the town of Madain, killed three people and wounded five.
Medics in nearby hospitals confirmed the casualties from the attacks. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to media.
On Tuesday, Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi asked visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for more airpower and weapons from the U.S.
Hagel had made an unannounced visit to Baghdad and offered assurances that Washington is committed to helping Iraq regain the territory it lost to the Islamic State group, and emphasized the importance of building a durable international coalition to combat the extremists.
Meanwhile, from Dec. 8-10, U.S. military forces conducted seven airstrikes on Islamic State targets near Kobani, Syria. Separately, U.S. and partner nation military forces conducted 13 airstrikes in Iraq, in the same timeframe, the U.S. Central Command said on Wednesday.
Also, millions of Shi'ite pilgrims from Iraq and neighboring states are heading this week to the city of Kerbala for a religious ceremony that authorities said radical Sunni fighters are targeting for attack.
Already hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite faithful, many from adjacent Iran, have visited Kerbala for rituals that culminate in Saturday's Arbain holy day - the last of 40 days' mourning for the death in battle of Imam Hussein 13 centuries ago.
Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.