Iraqi officials on Tuesday said security forces had fought off attacks by jihadist militants in several areas north of the capital Baghdad, as the United States revealed that it was sending 270 troops to the conflict-ridden country to help secure its embassy.
Security forces in the disputed Kirkuk province prevented an attack on a Shi'a shrine by Sunni radicals of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Alsumaria News website reported, quoting a member of the provincial council.
ISIL militants captured Iraq's second city Mosul a week ago and subsequently overran a string of towns stretching south towards the capital Baghdad.
Troops reportedly changed out of their uniforms and joined fleeing civilians as the jihadists advanced last week, while Kurdish defence forces moved into abandoned army positions in Kirkuk city.
In Diyala province, security forces said they fought off attacks by ISIL in the al-Azim area 100 kilometres north of Baghdad and in al-Muqdadiya 80 kilometres north-east of the capital.
About 19 militants were killed in the clashes, Alsumaria News reported, quoting regional operations commander General Abdul-Amir al-Zaidi.
The renewed clashes came as the Pentagon said an extra 270 US soldiers had been sent to Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq to help secure the country's embassy.
“All of these forces are trained to integrate with existing US embassy security teams or operate as a stand alone force as directed,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
On Monday US Secretary of State John Kerry said that his country would be open to cooperating with Iran - the key regional ally of Iraq's embattled Shi'a Premier Nuri al-Maliki - to “minimise the violence.”
But Kerry also stressed the need for an inclusive Iraqi government, in a reference to widespread criticisms of al-Maliki's policies which have been seen as alienating Iraq's Sunni minority. - Sapa-dpa