View Iraqi and Syrian Towns and Cities seized by the Islamic State and its allies in a larger map
On Oct. 17, the Islamic State released a series of photographs of its fighters patrolling in the central Iraqi town of Dhuluiyah.
The photographs (below) show heavily armed fighters marching in the center of the town, with destroyed Iraqi military vehicles littering the streets. The Islamic State fighters are also seen taking up positions in homes in the town.
The jihadist group had previously taken control of Dhululiyah in mid-June and captured hundreds of Iraqi soldiers after overrunning a nearby airbase. But Iraqi government forces backed by Shia militias were reported to have regained control of the town weeks later. The town has changed hands several times since.
Dhululiyah and the nearby cities and towns of Balad, Ishaqi, Dujail, Dojama, Khalis, Tarmiyah, and Taji are key terrain for the Islamic State. The cities and towns are in the northern Baghdad “belt” and sit along two highways that run between Samarra and the capital city Baghdad, both of which are under the Iraqi government’s control. The Islamic State seeks to control the northern belt in an effort to strangle the capital. [For more details on the jihadist group’s strategy in Iraq, see LWJ report, ISIS, allies reviving ‘Baghdad belts’ battle plan .]
The Islamic State has been able to launch attacks on Dhululiyah, Balad, Ishaqi, Dujail, Dojama, Khalis,Tarmiyah, and Taji from the Thar Thar region to the west and Miqdadiyah to the east.
The Iraqi military has scrambled units from across the country as well as deployed Iranian-backed Shia militias in an effort to hold Samarra and defend the road to Baghdad. Four months after the Islamic State launched its offensive to take control of northern and central Iraq, the military and militias are barely holding the northern Baghdad belt.
Islamic State photographs from Dhululiyah:
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