Iraqi security forces fire artillery during clashes with Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Jurf al-Sakhar
Iraqi security forces fire artillery during clashes with Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Jurf al-SakharReuters

Government forces in Baghdad are engaged in heavy clashes with Sunni-led insurgents, who captured major towns last week.

This comes after reports suggested that parts of the city of Baquba, located only 60km from Baghdad, were briefly overrun by the notorious rebels, who on Monday captured the areas of Tal Afar and other cities such as Mosul and Tikrit.

Reports on the latest clashes near Baghdad come hours after the US announced deployment of around 275 military personnel to protect the staff at its huge embassy in the capital.

In Tal Afar, which is considered a strategic city west of Mosul in the province of Nineveh, reinforcements are said to have arrived to boost government forces, trying to recapture the town from the insurgents. The Iraqi air force is also said to be carrying out strikes in the area, the BBC reported, citing sources.

Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, told the news channel that the country may not stay together given the ongoing problem, adding that it would be difficult for Iraq to return to the situation that existed before the ISIS took control of the northern cities.

Barzani said that the only answer could be creating an autonomous Sunni region.

"We have to leave it to Sunni areas to decide but I think this is the best model for them as well. First they have to take a decision: what they want exactly. And in our view... the best way is to have a Sunni region, like we have in Kurdistan," the PM was quoted as saying.

As tension rises in the war-torn country, the United States has made it clear that 275 of its military personnel being sent to Iraq were for proving security to the US embassy and other US properties, and not for aiding the Iraqi army in defeating the jihadists.

"The safety of personnel serving in diplomatic missions abroad is among our highest priorities. The presence of these additional forces will help enable the State Department to continue their critical diplomatic mission and work with Iraqis on challenges they are facing," Pentagon Press Secretary, Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

Talks are also rife about the US wanting to discuss with Iran the measures to halt the advances of the ISIS militants, although various reports suggest American officials have dismissed such a collaboration.

The United Nations has grown increasingly worried with the situation in the country, and has declared that the ISIS rebels have carried out hundreds of summary executions.

The militants have already taken control of a swath of territory north of Baghdad, after seizing many key cities last week, although some towns were recaptured by the Iraqi armies.

Three years after the US and the coalitions withdrew their forces from the country, the conflict - erupting from sectarian division in the country and the increasing stronghold of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant - is threatening to demolish Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.