As efforts by Iraqi government forces to dislodge ISIS from Ramadi increase, ISIS has targeted the Iraqi army in the western Anbar province of Iraq in response. The group has unleashed a wave of suicide attacks which have killed at least 17 Iraqi soldiers, AP has reported.
General Saad Maan Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the attacks took place outside the ISIS-held city of Fallujah late on the previous night.
The attacks came just hours after the Iraqi government announced the start of a wide-scale operation to recapture areas under the control of ISIS in Anbar.
After ISIS captured the city of Ramadi in Anbar province in an offensive last week, the Iraqi army announced a counterattack to take back the city.
The Iraqi army, accompanied by Shiite and Sunni fighters, took back the town of Husaiba al-Sharqiya near Ramadi from ISIS on Sunday.
The suicide attacks struck a water control station on a canal between Lake Tharthar and the Euphrates River where army forces have been deployed for the Anbar offensive, Maan Ibrahim said.
Ibrahim added that ISIS used a sandstorm that engulfed most of Iraq on Tuesday night to launch the deadly wave of bombings. He said it was not clear how many suicide attackers were involved in the bombings but they hit the military from multiple directions.
ISIS militants captured the water station last month following attacks that also included multiple suicide bombings which killed a general commanding the 1st division and a dozen other officers and soldiers.
Iraqi government forces regained the station a few days later.
Abadi said Iraq needs more international support as many ISIS fighters are slipping into Iraq from Syria.
"Not controlling Syria-Iraq border more closely was an error. Syria is in chaos which made ISIS become stronger. We've asked our international coalition partners to tighten control over the border," he said.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has accused the Iraqi army of fleeing from Ramadi although they outnumber the ISIS fighters.
"The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," he told CNN's State of the Union programme.
"They vastly outnumbered the opposing force, and yet they withdrew from the site,” he added.
Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, said the government was surprised by Carter's remarks and that the defense secretary "was likely given incorrect information."