Iraq sandstorm Isis
Iraq's Shi'ite paramilitaries ride in military vehicles in Nibai Reuters

Islamic State (Isis) has launched a series of suicide attacks against the Iraqi army in Anbar province killing 17 troops, according to an Iraqi army spokesman.

Brig. Gen Saad Maan Ibrahim, the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, told AP on 27 May the attacks took place outside of Fallujah, which is held by IS. The extremist group used a sandstorm as a shield to protect itself and launch the deadly wave of bombings. Al-Jazeera put the death toll of the attacks to 55 people.

The incident occurred as the Iraqi minister of defence announced army victories in several towns in southern Salahuddin province as part of the wide anti-IS counter-offensive to retake the western province of Anbar after the defeat of Ramadi.

The fall of Ramadi sparked severe criticism from the US, which has been arming and training Iraqi forces, also backing them against the radical Islamic group with air strikes.

Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to seize the Anbar provincial capital back from the jihadist coup within days.

Shi'ite paramilitary groups have taken charge of the campaign, giving it the sectarian codename "Labaik ya Hussein" (We are at your service, Hussein), in reference to the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed killed in the 7th century. The battle in which he died opened the split between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.

"The Labaik Ya Hussein operation is led by the Hashid Shaabi in cooperation and coordination with the armed forces there," spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi told a news conference. "We believe that liberating Ramadi will not take long."

Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren criticised the codename saying: "I think it's unhelpful." The risk is to alienate the Sunni residents which represent the majority of the population in the Anbar province.