ATTACKS in and around Baghdad have killed at least 20 civilians, as Iraqi security forces repelled an attack by the Islamic State group on the country’s largest oil refinery, officials said.

Seven people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a commercial area in the town of Mahmoudiyah, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, police said.

The car was parked in a mainly Shiite section of the town near a bakery and went off as people were standing in line to buy bread.

Another 13 civilians were wounded in the attack, officials said.

Another car bomb exploded in a car park outside Baghdad’s Yarmouk Hospital, killing four civilians and wounding 10, police said.

Three more civilians were killed and eight wounded when a bomb ripped through an outdoor market in Baghdad’s northern Sabi al-Bor area, police added.

Two more car bombs went off simultaneously in al-Wihda in Baghdad’s south-eastern outskirts, killing six civilians and wounding 13, police said. One of the cars was parked in a commercial area while the second was in a nearby car park.

Medical officials confirmed the casualty figures.

The bombings came a day after attacks in and around Baghdad killed at least 15 civilians. The Islamic State group and other Sunni extremists carry out near-daily attacks targeting Iraq’s security forces and the country’s Shiite majority.

Meanwhile, the deputy governor of northern Salahuddin province said IS militants had used suicide armoured car bombs to try to break into the Beiji refinery over the past two days.

Ammar Hikmat said security forces repelled the attacks and remained in control of the facility. He said more than 20 militants were killed during the clashes and that several security forces were killed or wounded.

“We call upon the central government to send reinforcements immediately. The soldiers defending the refinery are exhausted and they are in need of any kind of help in order to withstand the attacks,” Mr Hikmat said.

Oil minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said yesterday that Iraqi forces, backed by US-led coalition air strikes, had repelled an IS attack over the weekend on Beiji. A spokesman from the Pentagon said yesterday that IS has lost more than a quarter of its territory in Iraq since the US-led coalition air campaign began in August, a Pentagon spokesman says.

Col Steve Warren said it was too early to say the tide was turning, but that air strikes and Iraqi ground forces had “unquestionably inflicted some damage”. IS took over large swathes of northern and western Iraq last June.

The announcement came ahead of talks between Iraq’s Prime Minister and President Barack Obama in Washington.

Before leaving for the US, Haider al-Abadi made clear that he wanted the coalition to step up its air campaign against IS, which advanced across Iraq last June after routing security forces.

Col Warren told a news conference in Washington on Monday that IS had lost approximately 25 per cent to 30 per cent of its territory in Iraq in the past eight months, which equated to 5,000 to 6,000 sq miles.

Coalition and government forces had “unquestionably inflicted some damage on [IS] and have pushed [IS] back in a somewhat meaningful way,” he said.

A Pentagon map showed the jihadist group had “lost large areas where it was once dominant” and the frontline had been pushed either west or south, depending on location, in the provinces of Irbil, Babil, Baghdad and Kirkuk, Col Warren added.

“Among other strategic infrastructure and sizeable towns where [IS] has lost territory are Mosul Dam, Zummar and the vicinity of Sinjar Mountain.”

The corridor north of Tikrit had been “substantially retaken by friendly forces” and the city was expected to be cleared of militants “relatively soon,” he said.

An international coalition has been bombing targets in Iraq since the middle of 2014.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi wants the coalition to step up its air campaign. The town of Baiji and the nearby oil refinery, Iraq’s most important, is still contested, and will continue to be the focus of air strikes.

Mr Abadi also announced last week the launch of a new offensive to drive IS out of the country’s biggest province, Anbar, west of Baghdad. However, IS responded by overrunning two districts on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Ramadi.

The Pentagon said IS’s area of influence in Syria where coalition air strikes began in September, remained largely unchanged.