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BAGHDAD (AP) — Government forces and Shiite militiamen repelled an Islamic State group attack Friday that left 10 soldiers dead in western Iraq’s Anbar province, officials said.

The militants attacked the government-held town of Khalidiyah with mortars and five suicide car bombs, Anbar councilman Athal al-Fahdawi said. They retreated after an hours-long battle, leaving behind 12 dead fighters. Some were hiding in houses in nearby Abu Flais village, Al-Fahdawi said.

Police and army officers said at least 10 soldiers were killed. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State group’s Radio al-Bayan said IS militants seized positions in the Khalidyah area after attacking Iraqi troops and Shiite militias with car bombs.

Iraqi forces, backed by Shiite militias, have been struggling to recapture areas lost to IS in the country’s west and north. In May, the militant group scored a stunning victory when it overran Ramadi in Anbar province, capturing large amounts of ammunition and armored vehicles from fleeing government troops.

Also Friday, a representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, urged countries in the region to take “decisive measures” to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.

“The continuation of the policy of carelessness and giving a blind eye on the flow of these fighters to Iraq will increase the danger of these gangs to Iraq and they will represent a threat to their countries,” Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalei said during a Friday sermon in the city of Karbala.

Foreign fighters have been streaming into Syria and Iraq by the thousands to join IS and other extremist groups.


Associated Press writer Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.