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7000 NZ-trained troops from Iraqi camp

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 9/06/2016

Almost 7000 Iraqi troops have been trained by New Zealand and Australian personnel at a camp near the site of a car bombing in northern Baghdad on Thursday.

New Zealand has had about 100 military personnel at Camp Taji in Iraq since May last year, helping Australian soldiers train Iraqi forces to fight ISIS.

A blast struck a checkpoint outside the security perimeter of the camp on 6pm NZT on Thursday, with no New Zealanders among the casualties, according to Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee.

The explosion had occurred some 2-3km from where Kiwi troops were housed, he said.

At least 22 people were killed and 70 other injured in two separate blasts in Baghdad on Thursday, including the one at the checkpoint.

A group of about 300 Iraqi troops had just left the camp following six weeks of training, bringing the total number trained to close to 7000, the Defence Force said.

Major General Tim Gall said some of the troops had been involved in the assault to retake the central city of Ramadi from ISIS last year.

The attacks on Thursday came as Iraqi forces are trying to dislodge Islamic State militants from Fallujah, their stronghold just west of Baghdad.

In May, Prime Minister John Key said he was lukewarm to the idea of extending the mission beyond its current 2017 end date, saying he thought two years was "good enough".

A Ministry of Defence review of the operation after nine months said "the training is having a tangible and positive impact on the ability of the Iraqi Army units to take the fight to ISIL/Daesh".

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