Fighters from the newly established Islamic State ambushed and destroyed an Iraqi armored column in the western province of Anbar. Islamic State fighters also captured several American-made armored personnel carriers. The ambush highlights the deteriorating state of the Iraqi security forces.
The Islamic State’s Anbar Wilayat (division or province) released a series of photographs on its Twitter account on July 10 that document the ambush of an Iraqi armored column and the aftermath of the attack [photographs below].
According to the statements from the Anbar Wilayat, the Iraqi Army convoy was attacked in the Khalidiyah area in Anbar province. Although the exact date of the ambush was not provided, the Anbar Wilayat typically publishes photographs of attacks within days of carrying them out.
Several photos show Islamic State fighters opening fire on the convoy as it drives on a dirt road in a rural area of Khalidiyah. The Islamic State fighters appear to detonate one or more IEDs, or roadside bombs, on the armored column that includes US made and donated M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks and M113 armored personnel carriers. At least three M1A1s and nine M113s can be identified in the photographs.
At least one tank and two M113s are shown while on fire. One of the Abrams tanks appears to be half buried in a ditch.
The Iraqi soldiers appear to have abandoned the convoy after it was ambushed. The Islamic State only displayed one body of an Iraqi soldier, who appears to have been burned.
Islamic State fighters are photographed on top of the vehicles after the battle. At least two of the M113 armored personnel carriers appear to be operational. An Islamic State fighter is shown driving one of them across a field and toward some homes in the area.
Islamic State consolidating its grip on Anbar
Khalidiyah is located outside of the city of Habbaniyah and near the Al Taqaddum military base. Khalidiyah, which was a bastion for al Qaeda in Iraq up until early 2007, is also halfway between the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, is currently contested as the Islamic State is reported to control some neighborhoods in the city. Fallujah, the nearby dam, and Karma and Abu Ghraib are currently under the control of the Islamic State and its tribal allies.
The Islamic State controls most of Anbar province. West of Haditha, the Islamic State runs the towns of Anah, Rawa, and the border town of Al Qaim. The jihadist group also controls the far-flung towns of Rutbah and Nukhaib. The status of the Tarbil border crossing to Jordan and the Al Walid crossing to Syria is undetermined. Although there are reports that local tribes assumed control of the crossings, the Islamic State has displayed photographs of its fighters at the crossings.
The Iraqi military previously had two divisions, the 1st and the 7th, deployed in Anbar, but most of these forces have withered since the Islamic State took control of Fallujah in January and extended its control throughout the province. Many Iraqi soldiers are thought to have deserted; the exact number is not known, however. One estimate puts the number of overall desertions for the Iraqi Army at over 90,000. The Iraqi military has not released information on the number of soldiers killed and wounded since the Islamic State launched its offensive in mid-June.
The leadership of the 7th Division crumbled in later December 2013 after an Islamic State suicide team killed the division commander and 17 members of his staff in an ambush in Rutbah.
The situation in Ramadi has become so dire that the Iraqi government is deploying 4,000 members of the newly raised militias, who are primarily Shias, to an area that is overwhelmingly Sunni. The militia members are being “ferried out to Ramadi from Baghdad by helicopter,” ABC News reported, demonstrating how thoroughly the Islamic State controls the road from Baghdad to Ramadi.
Since launching the second phase of its operation to control territory in Iraq on June 10, the Islamic State took control of Ninewa province, to include Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, most of Salahaddin province, and areas in Diyala province. Additionally, the Islamic State has been waging an offensive in northern Babil province in the area known as the Triangle of Death, and is said to be in control of several areas, including Jufr al Sakhar. The Islamic State is seeking to take over the belt area around Baghdad, and squeeze the capital and make it ungovernable. [See LWJ report, Analysis: ISIS, allies reviving ‘Baghdad belts’ battle plan.]
The Iraqi government has largely halted the Islamic State’s southward advance outside of Samarra, which is just north of Baghdad. Thousands of Iranian-supported Shia militiamen from Asaib al Haq, Hezbollah Brigades, and Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigade are currently deployed between the road from Baghdad to Samarra. Iraqi military and national police units are nowhere to be found on the road, according to The New York Times.
While the Shia militias have helped the Iraqi government slow the Islamic State’s advance toward Baghdad, they has been ineffective so far in helping to retake ground lost to the group. The Iraqi military’s attempt to retake the city of Tikrit, the provincial capital of Salahaddin which is just north of Samarra, has so far stalled since it was launched at the end of June.
The Islamic State’s territory spans both Iraq and Syria. In Syria, the Islamic State controls Raqqah, much of Deir al Zour, and areas in Aleppo and Hasakah provinces.
Photographs from the ambush of an Iraqi Army armored column in Khalidiyah
An Iraqi Army M1A1 Abrams main battle tank is hit by what appears to be an IED:
An Islamic State fighter manning a machine gun observes as the Iraqi Army armored column is ambushed in Khalidiyah:
Armored vehicles in the column are ablaze:
An M1A1 tank is on fire:
Islamic State fighters stand on top of an M1A1 tank:
Another M1A1 tank is half buried in a ditch as Islamic State fighters stand on top of it:
A column of abandoned M113 armored personnel carriers:
The Islamic State captured what appears to be two intact M113 armored personnel carriers:
An Islamic State fighter drives away in an M113: