Iraqi forces foil bomb attacks on bases: officer

Comes after ISIL creates havoc with vehicle borne explosives.

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BAGHDAD // Iraqi security forces used anti-tank missiles to repel suicide bombers driving explosives-rigged vehicles who attacked two military bases west of Baghdad, an army officer said on Thursday.

It came a day after an air strike in northern Iraq destroyed one of ISIL’s largest car bomb factories, which may help to curb one of the extremist group’s deadliest tactics, officials said.

ISIL attacked a base north of Fallujah with two explosives-rigged vehicles driven by suicide bombers, and another south of the city with four more, including a bulldozer, an army colonel said.

However, the attacks were foiled using Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles.

Last month, ISIL used an unprecedented wave of lorry and car bombs when it seized the city of Ramadi, farther west, after which the United States said it would send 2,000 anti-tank systems to help repel such attacks.

The group’s capture of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, marked its most significant advance since the US-led anti-ISIL coalition began its air campaign against the extremists last year.

On Wednesday, Iraqi officials said an air strike hit an ISIL car bomb plant at the entrance to the town of Hawijah in north Iraq that was “the biggest factory in Iraq and Syria”, according to an Iraqi colonel.

Both that officer and Mohammed Khalil Al Juburi, the deputy head of the Kirkuk provincial security committee, said the blast caused heavy casualties among both ISIL and civilians.

The huge explosion could be heard in Kirkuk, 55 kilometres away, while mobile phone photos said to show the site of the explosion reveal damage on a massive scale.

The images show a huge field of debris – cinderblocks, metal roofing, the twisted remains of vehicles – that stretches as far as the eye can see.

Iraqi officials said the strike was carried out by the US-led coalition.

The coalition issued a statement saying that it had bombed an ISIL “VBIED (vehicle-born improvised explosive device) facility” in the Hawijah area but did not provide any details.

Also on Thursday, the White House said that US president Barack Obama will meet with Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi on the sidelines of a Group of Seven summit, which is taking place in Germany on Saturday and Sunday.

The meeting will allow Mr Obama to discuss the “situation on the ground and our effort to support Iraqi forces,” senior White House aide Ben Rhodes told reporters in a conference call ahead of the US president’s trip.

* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press