ISIS, Iraqi forces battle for capital of Diyala

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Map created by The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham continues to press its offensive to seize the “belts” regions around Baghdad. Even though the ISIS southward advance has halted in Samarra, just north of Baghdad, it is continuing to press into the northeastern belts region in Diyala province.

According to the BBC, ISIS forces have entered Baqubah, the provincial capital of Diyala, and taken over several districts before being beaten back by Iraqi military forces and allied Shia militias:

Parts of the city of Baquba – just 60km (37 miles) from Baghdad – were briefly taken over by the rebels.

Reports say 44 prisoners were killed during fighting at a police station in the city.

Accounts of who was responsible differ, with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s security spokesman saying the prisoners were killed by the attacking insurgents, and other officials reporting that they were killed by security forces while attempting to escape.

Sources in Baquba have told the BBC that people there are frightened and some have started leaving after the Islamist militants took control of several districts.

Baquba is filled with soldiers and a large number of Shia militiamen who are reported to have pushed the gunmen out.

Additionally, the ISIS is reported to have clashed with Iraqi forces in Miqdadiyah over the past several days. The status of the city is unknown.

Baqubah and Miqdadiyah were hotly contested cities during the height of al Qaeda in Iraq’s insurgency from 2005-2007. US and Iraqi forces, along with Awakening militias, fought pitched battles to wrest the cities from al Qaeda’s control.

Looking at the map, it is clear that the next phase of ISIS’ battle plan is to take control of cities and towns in Diyala in order to squeeze the Iraqi government’s supply lines north from Baghdad to Samarra. ISIS already controls the Thar Thar area of Anbar and Salahaddin provinces to the west and has been attacking the road north from there. Control of Baqubah and Miqdadiyah would allow the ISIS to more easily strike from the east. The towns on the road north to Samarra have already been hit by ISIS raids over the past several days.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • DJ Elliott says:

    Don’t forget Anbar.
    Iraqi Helos bombed the ammo depot at Habbeniyah to prevent ISIS capture.
    6th Div is reported counter-attacking at Falujah – 6th is normally W Baghdad/Abu Graib area.
    Also of note is the report of a 3 bn ISOF air assault reinforcing Tal Afar while elements of 7th Div are pushing at Qaim. Apparently, someone in ISF wants to cut ISIS’s LOCs to Syria.

  • Nikos Retsos says:

    Nouri Al Maliki has mismanaged Iraq for 8 years, and the invasion by the ISIS is an opportunity to remove him from power, otherwise the Sunnis in Iraq would to live like serfs forever. Now Maliki lashes at the Saudis and other Gulf states for helping the ISIS, after wrote about that Saudi involvement in my blog at the Telegraph, which dissects the anti-Maliki Sunni militias proliferation and the Saudi connection – as well the unusual alliance between Iran and the U.S. to save Maliki.
    I recap here the essence of my view at my blog: Maliki is corrupt, sectarian, too divisive, and unworthy of saving by either the U.S. or Iran in his current mode of political thinking. Iraq needs national unity to prosper as a state, and Maliki has sabotaged or disregarded any effort to achieve that unity. The Saudi campaign against Maliki is, therefore, a blessing for all Iraqis.
    Of course nobody wants an Islamic state by the ISIS in Iraq, and such a state won’t survive against a U.S. – Iran alliance, but ISIS deserves credit for starting the anti-Maliki ball rolling. Nikos Retsos, retired professor, USA

  • Eddie B says:

    Mr. Retsos, I agree with your characterization of Maliki, but not your conclusion. He isn’t going anywhere and will continue to be Prime Minister. For the U.S., involvement = influence. If we use airstrikes to beat back ISIS and lift the morale of Iraqi forces, we can make it clear to Maliki that our support is conditional to him being accommodating to the Sunnis, who are needed and in some cases willing to fight ISIS now. Including Sunni parties in a new coalition govt would go a long way. If we don’t help, Iran will and that will fan the sectarian flames already burning strong.

  • Dave says:

    Bill: Haven’t you heard of the shortage and the need to conserve on map pins?

  • Neo says:

    @Nikos Retsos
    Oh Please! By all means get rid of Maliki and those Shiites, so Iraq can once again be grossly mismanaged by a Sunni, the way God intended.
    “The Saudi campaign against Maliki is, therefore, a blessing for all Iraqis.” You’re not going to run a poll on that, are you?
    “Maliki is corrupt, sectarian, too divisive, and unworthy…” Name an Iraqi ruler that doesn’t fit at the head of that sentence? Someone more recent than Saladin.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Dace, that is both truly funny, for obvious reasons, and yet sad at the same time as the absurdity of this map means the Iraqi people are going to pay dearly for living under the yoke of the ISIS.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    I get your point but with all due respect to everybody I think the ME could use a long, long break from being ruled by men who claim they are supported by “God”. It has done absolutely nothing for the region and history as well as modern times have shown that men who claim they are supported by “God” tend to commit heinous acts in the name of religion and they use the name of “God” to oppress others and never be stopped. Nobody would want to revolt against a man of “God”, would they??? I do not disrespect people’s beliefs but I am highly critical of people that use deities and religious dogma as a way of controlling and hurting others.
    ISIS controls the Syrian desert region of Homs (for the most part) as well as some villages in the North and Northeast part of the province. I noticed it is not in your map yet. I will check ISIS twitter feeds for more info, their info stream changes of course as new events unfold.

  • Alex says:

    Securing Baqubah needs to be top priority, even aboce Mosul. Correct me if I am wrong but Baqubah used to be the old “capital” city for the ISI/AQI in 2007. Securing Baqubah is necessary to reduce the risk of attacks in Baghdad proper.

  • Lakshmanan says:

    My knowledge about Iraq is as limited as my information about US/IRAN/SAUDI ARABIA/SYRIA involvement in the conflict.
    Still, I want to convey my thinking on the issue. The question need not be whether Maliki is sectarian or ISIS is a true saviour of sunnis or for that matter how genuine is the concern of Iran and saudis’ over Iraq. All these countries and their leaders have failed. Not just failed but unleash violence over the region’s innocent population. On the other hand terrorist organisations with myriad names justify their action and indulge in further violence. To put it briefly the rulers and the opponents have proved in front of the nations that they are not only incapable but unworthy of respect that human beings deserve.(incidentally they all belong to the same religion)
    This region is central to the stability of the economy of all the nations due to the petroleum deposits. The lingering battles in the region would put the entire humanity in danger due to non availability of oil and rising cost, loss of jobs, homes everything. So, the intervention of the U.N. to save the rest of the nations is not only justified but also inevitable.
    Presently the warring nations, if necessary, other countries of the regions too should be taken over by the U.N forces (all the developed nations in the West, , U.S. Japan, Korea, Australia etc including countries like Indonesia, Philippines, India, Brazil should get involved in the UN Force).
    The expense for the war and administration of the war torn regions should be taken from the oil sale of those countries only. Civil servants of established repute from all over the world should take-over the government supported by the troops.The cry for democracy from these citizen is not justified as they never had any democracy and the rebels need not be treated with U.N. conventions as they cannot be desrcribed as human beings since as we are all witnessing what they are doing when they hold power. The situation is so bad and funny that Al Qaeda and Ayotollahs call the fighting forces in Iraq as Terrorists!
    The American short-sightedness is getting legendary status. They support the rebels in Syria but are getting ready to bomb them in Iraq joining hands with their erstwhile bitter adversary – Iran!
    Iran is at-least consistent in its stand as they are pro-government in both Syria and Iraq though they should be regarded as mischief mongers in both these countries. Saudi Arabia is the most criminal of all of them because they are successfully instigating everything in the region with the active observation (if not support) of the U.S. and discreet major player in the havoc.
    To sum up my point again, “Let there be a genuine UN Forces and Civil Servants from all over the World to manage these warring countries and bring peace and administration to this region. Whether it is Assad or Maliki should go. UN should appoint Governors for the region and administer oil prices to bring stability to the world economy and its society


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