Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have mounted two suicide car-bomb attacks aimed at security checkpoints at the main entrance into Haditha city.
Haditha, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, is currently mostly under the control of the government, with troops and tribesmen holding about 70 percent of the city.
ISIL, however, is in control of areas that are in the direction of the border with Syria.
Saturday’s attacks left at least 12 people dead and 17 more injured, medical sources told Al Jazeera.
Nine policemen and three civilians were among the dead, the sources said.
ISIL fighters also shot down an Iraqi military helicopter on Saturday, officials said, killing the two pilots on board and raising fresh concerns about the group’s ability to attack the US-led coalition’s aircraft.
The attack happened near the city of Samarra, about 95km north of Baghdad, the Associated Press news agency said.
A senior Iraqi Defence Ministry official told AP tha ISIL fighters used a shoulder-fired rocket launcher to shoot down the EC635 helicopter on the outskirts of Samarra.
Earlier, ISIL took control of a different area of Anbar province. Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said fighters seized the village of al-Jabha just after Friday midnight.
The village is about 12km west of Ramadi.
She said ISIL immediately sent out messages from loudspeakers in the mosques telling residents that if they did not fight back, they would be safe.
“ISIL made clear that they are fighting to regain the corridor between tribes that have turned against ISIL and the military command operation centre in Ramadi,” our correspondent said.
“There was fierce fighting across Anbar. ISIL has taken over more than a dozen villages in the past few days. Residents there say its clear ISIL is making gains there, prompting desperate calls, including from the provisional council head, for foreign troops to come and help them.” Al Jazeera