The Islamic State advanced into the heart of Ramadi, the capital of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, and raised its flag over the government center after launching a complex attack that included six suicide bombers, one a British fighter. The loss of the government complex, which has been under siege since the Islamic State renewed its push to take control of Ramadi in April, is a major blow to the Iraqi military and government, which have sought to regain the initiative in Anbar after a string of losses there over the past year.
The Islamic State opened its attack by using armored bulldozers to remove concrete barriers that blocked the road to the government center, according to Al Jazeera. Suicide bombers then targeted the entrance to the government compound, a military Humvee, and the Health Ministry. Three more suicide bombers targeted the Anbar Operations Command on the northwestern edge of the city. The suicide bombings were reportedly led by a British suicide bomber known as “Abu Musa Britani.”
Jihadists then stormed the breach and battled with Iraqi forces before taking control of the complex and raising the Islamic State flag over one of the buildings.
The exact number of Iraqi military, Awakening, and Islamic State fighters killed or wounded has not been disclosed. An Iraqi police major told The Washington Post that more than 60 police officers were killed in the fighting. Photographs of the bodies of 10 Iraqi security personnel have been posted online; one of the bodies had a shirt with the logo of Iraq’s Special Forces Paratroopers (the images are too graphic to publish). An Iraqi security official told Al Baghdadiyah News that Coalition aircraft killed 16 jihadists, including “leading figure Akram Muhammad Ali al Farraji,” in an airstrike in the At Ta’mim district in Ramadi.
The Islamic State advanced on the government center despite Coalition air support. US Central Command, which manages Operation Inherent Resolve, the mission to “degrade and defeat” the Islamist group, launched two airstrikes near Ramadi that targeted an Islamic State “tactical unit” and a “fighting position” over the past 24 hours.
Islamic State supporters have announced the victory on social media sites and posted images of the battle and its aftermath.
“The Islamic State announced the full liberation of the government complex, which includes the government building, police, the Directorate of Education building, and the health building,” an Islamic State media operative proclaimed.
Another jihadist proclaimed that “government forces and the Awakening collapsed completely.” An Islamic State supporter on Twitter claimed that Brigadier General Sabah, the deputy police chief for Anbar, was seriously wounded during the fighting.
The Islamic State launched its latest offensive to take control of Ramadi at the beginning of April, several days after Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said that Iraq’s “next stand and battle will be here in the land of Anbar to completely liberate it.” By the end of April, the Islamic State advanced into several neighborhoods and killed and wounded scores of Iraqi troops. [See LWJ report, Islamic State launches assault on Ramadi and Islamic State releases video of recent battles near Ramadi.]
The city has been contested since January 2014, when the jihadist group took control of Fallujah and other cities and towns in Anbar. Most of the province is under the Islamic State’s control.
Pictures from the latest fighting in Ramadi:
Suicide attack by “Abu Musa Britani”: