The Islamic State has launched a coordinated assault on Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s large western province of Anbar, in an attempt to take over the entire city. It is thought that the terror organization is already in control of around 60 percent of Ramadi after battles that have raged since its initial assault on the city in January.
According to Reuters, gunmen attacked Anbar provincial government offices and the police headquarters in the center of the city, as well as the al Huz and al Mua’almim districts. Another report indicates that the districts of Albu Hayis, Albu Fahd, and Albu Alwan, which are traditional strongholds of the Sunni tribal Sahwa (Awakening) Movement, are also under attack. Al Jazeera is reporting that “at least 20 soldiers” have been killed in this assault, including Iraqi police colonel Majid al Fahdawi. Fahdawi was reportedly killed by sniper fire in the Mudhiq district of Ramadi.
Both Awakening and Iraqi military forces are currently trying to push back the Islamic State assault. In addition, mosque officials throughout the besieged areas are asking civilians “who can carry weapons to confront the attackers,” according to Reuters.
The southern districts of Al Tam’im, the aforementioned Mua’almim, Thubat, and 5 Kilo, in addition to the 7 Kilo and Albu Aytha areas west and north of the city, are either contested or under Islamic State control. Iraqi security forces are said to be concentrated at the Anbar Operations Command Center, which is north of the Euphrates River.
This assault comes as US Special Forces have begun to implement large-scale training of the Iraqi Army and Sahwa forces at the Al Assad airbase close to Ramadi. President Barack Obama has also authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 US personnel to Iraq for training purposes; many of these troops will likely be deployed to Al Assad. According to NPR, the trainees include Anbar-based troops of the Iraqi Army’s 7th Division, which has suffered severe setbacks in the province. [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.]