The Islamic State recently published a photo report from battles near Zawbaa in Iraq’s Anbar province. Zawbaa is to the east of the town of Amiriyat al Fallujah and is close to Abu Ghraib, which is just west of Baghdad.
The photos bear the title of the Islamic State’s Wilayat Junub, or its Southern Province. This administrative division is comprised of areas south of Baghdad and parts of northern Babil province. The fact that these photos were published by Wilayat Junub and not Wilayat al Fallujah more than likely represents operational overlap between the two divisions. These images have been disseminated on Twitter by its supporters after being posted elsewhere online.
The photos show Islamic State fighters targeting Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) personnel and their Sunni tribal allies in the vicinity of Zawbaa. The Islamic State used mortars, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and sniper fire in its assault in the town. Several photos show Islamic State snipers with the US-made Mk. 14 EBR designated marksman rifle, which is currently in use by the Iraqi special forces. At least four Humvees are shown to have been destroyed or damaged in the attack, as well as several ISF buildings.
Other photos appear to show the capture and beheading of ISF members or tribal fighters near the area. The Islamic State was also able to capture a large cache of weapons, including M-16’s, AK-47’s, RPG’s, and PK machine guns. One photo also purports to show the identification badges and personal cell phones of the captured or killed ISF members.
Several Arabic-language news site indicate that the Islamic State is launching a new campaign to take Amiriyat al Fallujah. On Jan. 31, it was reported that a renewed offensive was launched on the town with four of its members being killed by Iraqi police and tribal fighters. Additional reporting also indicated that the town has been encircled and the group is firing mortar rounds into the town. The Islamic State has released pictures showing its fighters firing 120mm mortars on Amiriyat al Fallujah in recent days. Other photos released by the group also show a Russian suicide bomber detonating within an M113 armored personnel carrier near the town.
Today’s reporting still indicates Amiriyat al Fallujah is under siege, however Baghdad is said to be sending reinforcements to the area. Clashes are still ongoing in the Zawbaa area and north of the town. Al Jazeera has also reported that Islamic State fighters in the Owesat area of northern Babil province, which is just south of Amiriyat al Fallujah, are also engaging ISF personnel near the town.
Amiriyat al Fallujah is a strategic locale in western Iraq as it links up with Jurf al Sakhar in Babil province. Control of both towns would allow the Islamic State to put significant pressure on Baghdad, as well as Karbala and Najaf. Jurf al Sakhar was previously held by the Islamic State, but was recaptured by ISF and Shia militias in October 2014. That same month, Amiriyat al Fallujah became under siege by the Islamic State before being beaten back by the ISF and its Sunni tribal allies.
Patrick Megahan assisted in identifying weapons used by the Islamic State in this report.
Photos released by the Islamic State showing the fighting near Zawbaa can be seen below