Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Baghdad on Sunday for talks on aiding Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State (IS), state television reported.
Australia is part of a US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and has deployed special forces troops to assist in training the army.
"Abbott arrived in Baghdad on an official visit to discuss bilateral cooperation between the two countries and... strengthening support and supplying the security forces to confront (IS) terrorist gangs," the television said, citing "government sources."
It did not provide further details on the visit.
Abbott has spoken strongly against the IS organisation in the past, saying the decision to support international operations is in Australia's national interest.
"The beheadings, the crucifixions, mass executions, ethnic cleansing and sexual slavery that are occurring in northern Iraq and Syria, are only the beginning if [Islamic State] has its way," he said in October.
Australia initially deployed some 600 troops and several aircraft to the United Arab Emirates in mid-September as it geared up to join the US-led international coalition. Australian fighter jets flew their first armed combat mission in Iraq against the Islamic State group in October.
IS spearheaded an offensive that swept through much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland in June.
The group's rapid expansion and brutality in areas it controls in Iraq and neighbouring Syria eventually sparked an international campaign against it.
Dozens of Australians are fighting for Islamic militant groups overseas, raising fears that they could return home and carry out attacks.
IS execute 15 civilians
Abbott's visit comes amidst more violence in Iraq. IS is reported to have executed 15 Iraqi civilians on Friday in Fallujah in the western province of Anbar.
"IS militants executed 15 civilians by shooting, in public," a security source who preferred not to divulge his name told Anadolu Agency on Saturday.
The execution took place in public, in Fallujah's al-Karma district, after a militant from the group made a statement claiming that the 15 people had cooperated with Iraqi security forces and had revealed information about IS’s whereabouts.
IS also captured 170 youths from two villages located in southern Kirkuk on Saturday, according to a security source.
The youths are from the al-Jubur tribe and were taken to a prison in Hawija district located 55 km from the city of Kirkuk.
IS had captured 50 people from the al-Jubur tribe last month but had released them after two days of interrogation, security sources said.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces backed by tribal fighters managed to repel an IS attack on Saturday, in the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, police said.
“Iraqi forces managed to kill 10 IS militants and destroyed a vehicle. A policeman was injured in the clashes, which lasted for five hours,” Anbar province’s police chief Kazim Mohamed al-Fahdawi, said.
The number of kills could not be independently verified.
A security vacuum has gripped Iraq since June 2014, when IS stormed the northern province of Mosul and declared what it called a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
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