Islamic State overruns Iraqi Army brigade headquarters north of Fallujah

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Iraqi Security Forces personnel taken captive by the Islamic State at Brigade 26’s headquarters

The Islamic State overran the headquarters of an Iraqi Army brigade stationed in the Thar Thar area northwest of Baghdad late last week. Scores of Iraqi soldiers were killed, wounded, or captured, according to reports from Iraq and images released by the jihadist group.

The Islamic State released photos showing its attack on the Iraqi Army’s Brigade 26 headquarters in the Thar Thar area, which is also north of Fallujah. The photos bear the title of Wilayat Shamal Baghdad (North Baghdad), the jihadist group’s declared administrative division which includes areas immediately north of Baghdad and as far north as Samarra in Salahadin province. The release of photos from Wilayat Shamal Baghdad and not Wilayat Anbar more than likely represents operational overlap.

The photographs, which were publicized on March 13, show Islamic State fighters entering the headquarters of Brigade 26. Several photos display severely damaged or burning Humvees, while a number of other vehicles appear to have been abandoned by Iraqi Army personnel. The last photo in the set shows what appears to be more than a dozen Iraqi soldiers taken captive by the jihadist group.

According to Al Jazeera, the Islamic State launched four attacks on the headquarters which left at least 30 Iraqi Army personnel dead and forty wounded.

Thar Thar is a strategic area for both the Iraqi military and the Islamic State. Control of the region allows the Islamic State to move forces and supplies between eastern Anbar province and southern Salahaddin province. Additionally, the jihadist group has used the Thar Thar area to launch attacks against against Iraqi Security Forces and Shiite militias as they travel between Baghdad and Samarra, as well as the towns of Taji, Shabab, Dujail, Ishaqi, and Balad. The road between Baghdad and Samarra has been a battleground in the past, and the Iraqi military and Iranian-back militias currently claim to control it.

The attacks in Thar Thar took place as the Islamic State also launched two suicide attacks to the west, in Anbar’s provincial capital of Ramadi. Iraqi officials claimed the latter attacks resulted in no casualties or caused no material damage. However, other sources have reported that several Iraqi Security Forces personnel were killed after a bomb exploded in a tunnel underneath a government building in the city. Iraqi officials have also said that at least five suicide bombers in the nearby town of Khalidiya were killed before they could detonate.

Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al Obeidi is currently in Ramadi at the Anbar Operations Command to meet with commanders and soldiers prior to an upcoming offensive in the province. Coalition aircraft have also launched several airstrikes in Anbar over recent days, with US Central Command (CENTCOM) reporting that its aircraft, along with those of other coalition members, pushed back an Islamic State attack in Ramadi on Mar. 11.

Just two days ago, the Islamic State launched at least 13 suicide attacks in Ramadi. The bombers came from the directions of Albu Aytha, to the northeast of Ramadi, and Albu Diab, which is northwest of the city center. Additionally, the jihadist group targeted the Iraqi Army’s 1st Division near the Japanese bridge in Ramadi. The Islamic State utilized suicide bombers from Syria, Belgium, Australia, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco in the assault. (For more detail, see LWJ report, Foreign suicide bombers launch assault on Ramadi.)

Photos released by the Islamic State can be seen below:

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Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis