Three Islamic State suicide bombers targeted a police base in Iraq's western Anbar province with explosives-laden Humvees on Monday, killing at least 41 police and Shiite militiamen, officials said.
The attack on a police station in the Tharthar area, between Samarra and the Tharthar lake, north of the IS-held provincial capital Ramadi, caused a large secondary explosion in an ammunition depot, the officials said. Another 63 security forces members were wounded in the attack. A doctor from Samarra hospital confirmed the casualties ot the media.
Monday's attack resembled the massive, coordinated assault launched on Ramadi last month that allowed IS militants to capture the city, marking their biggest gain since a US-led coalition began launching airstrikes against the extremist group last August. In that assault, the IS group also used Humvees looted from Iraqi security forces.
The loss of Ramadi prompted Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi to order Shiite militiamen into the vast Sunni province, which was an insurgent hotbed during the eight-year US military presence.
The Shiite militiamen have played a key role in pushing the Sunni IS group back elsewhere in Iraq, but have also been accused by rights groups of carrying out revenge attacks against Sunni citizens, charges denied by militia commanders.
The IS group and other Sunni extremists view Shiites as apostates deserving of death. Meanwhile, The United Nations mission to Iraq said Monday that more than 1,031 people were killed and another 1,648 were wounded in violence across the country last month.
The UN figures showed that 665 civilians and 366 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed in May. Baghdad was the worst affected province with 343 killed and 701 wounded. But, the UNAMI statement excluded deaths from ongoing fighting in Anbar, due to problems in verifying the "status of those killed." The figures also leave out insurgent deaths.
In announcing the latest casualty figures, the UN mission said that military action alone is not enough to defeat the IS group and called for a power-haring among Iraq's ethnic and sectarian groups. "For any military gains to be sustainable, the government of Iraq must adopt a set of confidence-building measures toward disaffected communities, enabling them to assume a share in governing their matters," said Jan Kubis, the UN secretary general's special representative for Iraq.
Also, Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said UN is launching an appeal for $500mn to support critical humanitarian assistance in Iraq. The appeal will be launched next Tuesday in Brussels at the European Parliament.
"We are doing this because the humanitarian operation, which is currently reaching millions of people desperately in need, has run out of money. If we don't get money in now, if we don't secure financing, programs all across the country are going to be closing in the next weeks and months," said Grande during an interview with The Associated Press.
Internal fighting has displaced more than 2.7 million people inside Iraq, including 110,000 who fled from the renewed fighting in and around Ramadi in the past two weeks.
Many of these are living with other families, inside mosques or in makeshift camps around the western periphery of Baghdad. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of thousands more displaced Iraqis in the northern Kurdish regions.
IS fighters have over the past year seized a formidable arsenal of military vehicles, weapons and ammunition from retreating Iraqi forces. "The attack was carried out with a tank and left more than 70 killed and wounded," a senior police officer for Salaheddin province said.
Iraqi security forces have in recent days successfully repelled several suicide attacks involving explosives-laden vehicles thanks to guided anti-tank systems.