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Iraq: Clashes, attacks kill at least 22 people

BAGHDAD — Clashes between Iraqi government forces and militants along with attacks in the capital Baghdad on Wednesday killed at least 22 people and wounded dozens, officials said.

Heavy clashes erupted in three separate areas outside the city of Tikrit, which is controlled by the Islamic State extremist group, killing 12 security forces, Shiite militiamen and civilians, and wounding 37 others, a police official said. He added that three suicide truck bombers attacked the security forces during the clashes.

Militants claimed responsibility for three suicide attacks in a statement posted on a Twitter account frequently used by the extremist group. It said the attacks were carried out by French, Syrian and Qatari fighters, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant forums.

The IS group controls around a third of both Iraq and neighboring Syria, where it has declared an Islamic caliphate and imposed a violent form of Shariah law. The group captured Tikrit, which is about 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, during its sweep across northern and western Iraq last summer.

Meanwhile, mortar shells have struck two Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing at least 10 civilians, another police officer said.

The deadliest mortar attack struck a commercial area in the northern Shula neighborhood, killing seven civilians, including two women, and wounding 19 others. Hours later, mortar shells landed in Baghdad's Sabi al-Bore neighborhood, killing three civilians and wounding six others, the police officer added.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release information to media.

Also on Wednesday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Jordanian armed forces, Lt. Gen. Mashal al-Zaben, met the Iraqi defense minister and reiterated Jordan's "support to Iraq in its war against the terrorist gangs," according to an official statement, which did not provide further details on the talks.

Jordan is part of the U.S.-led international coalition carrying out airstrikes against IS militants in Iraq and Syria.