ISIS captures capital of Iraqi Anbar, raises black flag over Ramadi govt HQ
In a massive campaign that started on Thursday night, extremists have seized the government complex in Ramadi and also “raised its flag over the police HQ for Anbar,” Iraqi security source told AFP on condition of anonymity. The militants then announced over the loud speaker that they “broke into the Safavid government complex in the centre of Ramadi.”
According to reports on the ground, the attackers first used armored bulldozer to penetrate through the blast walls blocking the road to the police department. Once next to the government headquarters, they used a series of car bomb explosions to reach their targets.
Three blasts targeted the education department in the same compound, police HQ, and the western entrance to the governorate building itself. Three more car bombs targeted the Anbar Operations Command while four additional blast were reportedly heard around the city.
Some pockets of resistance continue to engage Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) fighters, a senior tribal leader, Sheikh Hekmat Suleiman told AFP by telephone. “The only [government] forces still fighting are confined to a few pockets in Ramadi but they have no command post anymore,” he said.
Iraqi officials however deny that the city has been surrendered to jihadists. “The situation in Ramadi is dire, but the city has not fallen and the battle against criminal Daesh [ISIS] is still ongoing,” Anbar governor Sohaib al-Rawi said on Twitter.
Hospital officials said that at least 11 people had been killed in the attack, according to Jordanian based Al Bawaba. Meanwhile, ISIS claimed via its radio address that it killed 13 Iraqi soldiers and executed 14 Sunni tribal fighters in the central neighborhood of Jamiya. CNN meanwhile reported that at least 47 Iraqi security forces and 26 civilians were killed in the fighting on Friday, citing two security sources.
Insurgents renewed their offensive on Ramadi in April gaining ground to the north and east, before launching deadly assault this week. Jihadi militants have also taken control of western Anbar town of Jubbah and engaged Iraqi army positions east of Ramadi, including an attack by a British suicide bomber ISIS reveled to be named Abu Musa al-Britani.
“Another vehicle driven by our brother martyr Abu Khobayb al-Shami attacked the Al-Majd police station near Al-Haq mosque in Ramadi, followed by an assault that killed who was left,” the group said in its daily radio broadcast, earlier in the day.
Provincial council member Adhal Obeid al-Fahdawi told AFP that “police, army forces and tribal forces are defending the city as we speak to prevent ISIS from taking over entirely,” he said. “Iraqi and coalition aircraft are in support.”
Massive number of refugees are meanwhile leaving the city fearing retaliatory executions by ISIS, Fahdawi added. “Families are trying to flee on foot, leaving their cars and homes behind, but most areas around Ramadi are under ISIS control,” another tribal leader, Sheikh Jabbar Adjadj al-Assafi, confirmed.
Horrific unconfirmed reports have emerged stating that ISIS has already executed some 70 civilians, including women and children after capturing several neighborhoods in the city, Iraq’s al-Sumaria TV reported quoting a security source in Anbar province.
To address the security threat and the ongoing fighting in the Anbar Province, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met military and security leaders where he pledged to intensify efforts to “expel the terrorist gangs from Ramadi.”
The PM also spoke to Vice President Joe Biden, who promised to provide more heavy weaponry to Iraq's forces.
“This will include delivery of heavy weaponry, including AT-4 shoulder-held rockets to counter vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, additional ammunition, and supplies for Iraqi forces,” the White House said in a statement.
Despite new gains by ISIS in Iraq, the Pentagon continues to insist that its anti-ISIS led air campaign is working.
“We believe across Iraq and Syria that Daesh is losing and remains on the defensive,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, chief of staff for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. Playing down ISIS made gains he added that Iraqi forces still controlled most “key facilities, infrastructure and lines of communication” in the Ramadi area.