The Islamic State continues its offensive to consolidate control of Iraq’s Anbar province. Today, the jihadist group is reported to have taken control of the town of Hit and has launched assaults on the Anbar Operations Command north of Ramadi and the 7th Division headquarters at Al Asad Airbase in Al Baghdadi.
Iraqi officials confirmed that much of Hit, a town just 20 miles west of the provincial capital of Ramadi, is under the control of the Islamic State.
“Ninety percent of Hit has been overrun by militants,” a member of the Anbar provincial council told Reuters. Witnesses stated that “scores” of heavily armed fighters are patrolling the town and the Islamic State’s black flag is flying over several government buildings, including the mayor’s office and the police station. Sporadic fighting between Islamic State fighters and the local Albu Nimr tribe has also been reported.
The Islamic State began its attack on Hit with a complex suicide assault, according to the National Iraqi News Agency (NINA).
“The elements of the [Islamic State] attacked, at dawn today, Hit district from three directions,” NINA reported. Islamic State fighters first took control of the roads leading to the town, then deployed three suicide car bomb attacks on key checkpoints. Afterwards, the group targeted other checkpoints and the military headquarters in the town.
The Islamic State captured “a battalion of tanks, the headquarters of the Infantry Regiment, the headquarters for the leadership of the border guards of the Fourth Region, the Police Department of Hit and 5 police stations in the district,” NINA reported. At least 24 soldiers are said to have been killed and “dozens” more are missing.
Unconfirmed reports from Iraqi officials claimed that the Islamic State fled the town “as a result of international coalition [US and allied country’s] aircraft’s bombing to the gatherings of militants in the region.” The US has not released a press release announcing airstrikes in Hit. Yesterday, one airstrike was reported by CENTCOM “in the vicinity of the Haditha Dam.”
Islamic State attacks on military headquarters in Ramadi, Al Baghdadi
In addition to assaulting Hit, the jihadist group launched attacks nearby at the Anbar Operations Command and Al Asad Airbase.
Iraqi troops are said to have “repulsed an attack” on the Anbar Operations Command just north of Ramadi, NINA reported. Additionally, unconfirmed reports indicate that the Al Mua’almin neighborhood in southern Ramadi has fallen to the Islamic State.
Also, the Iraqi Army reportedly repelled another assault on the headquarters element of the depleted 7th Division, which is based at Al Asad Airbase near the town of Al Baghdadi.
The fall of Hit and attacks on the Iraqi Army headquarters in Ramadi and Al Baghdadi are the latest in a series of setbacks suffered by the Iraqi military in Anbar province at the hands of the Islamic State.
Just days ago, the Islamic State routed a mechanized unit in Albu Aytha, a village just north of Ramadi. And two weeks ago, just north of Fallujah, the jihadists overran Camp Saqlawiya and took control of the nearby town of Alsigir. The group controls much of Anbar province, including Fallujah, areas of the provincial capital of Ramadi, and the border crossing at Al Qaim. [For more details, see LWJ reports, Islamic State ambushes Iraqi military column near Ramadi, Islamic State overruns Iraqi military base in Anbar, and Islamic State photos detail rout of Iraqi Army at Camp Saqlawiya.]