Islamic State assaults Iraqi Army base in Anbar

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“To break into the Safavid army barracks in the perimeter of Habbaniyah base,” from the Islamic State’s Wilayat Fallujah.

The Islamic State claimed to have breached the perimeter of Camp Habbaniyah in Anbar province, via photographs released over the past several days. The camp, which is a major Iraqi Army (IA) base near the town of Habbaniyah, is one of the last major IA bases in the western province.

The photographs bear the title of Wilayat Fallujah (State of Fallujah), which is one of the Islamic State’s proclaimed 20 administrative divisions. Wilayat Fallujah joins two other Islamic State divisions that make up Iraq’s Anbar province — Wilayat Anbar and Wilayat Furat. The pictures were disseminated on Twitter by the jihadist group’s supporters after being posted elsewhere online.

The photos in the first set show several rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) being fired at the base and the use of other small arms. In other images, Islamic State fighters are seen fighting behind barriers, presumably near the perimeter of the base. The second set of photos shows more fighters moving near the perimeter, as well as more RPG fire. Two pictures display the inside of the base from the perimeter. Other images detail the use of mortars, as well as anti-aircraft weaponry being fired at circling aircraft.

Fighting in the Habbaniyah area was confirmed in Iraqi press reporting. An Iraqi Army source was quoted in Iraqi media as saying that “Iraqi aviation flew overhead and was able to bomb several Islamic State positions and three [of its] vehicles” during the fighting. That same source also claimed that the military killed 20 Islamic State fighters, but this number cannot independently confirmed. The Iraqi Army has not released a number for its dead or wounded.

According to Shaafaq, the Islamic State attacked the town of Habbaniyah from two sides on Dec. 31, 2014 and deployed a suicide car bomb on a fueling station in the town. Additionally, Shaafaq stated that the Iraqi Army was able to repel an attack on the Habbaniyah base yesterday. However, the National Iraqi News Agency reported yesterday afternoon that fighting was still raging in the Habbaniyah Hills area of the town.

The Iraqi military and allied militias of the Sunni Tribal Awakening have been battling the Islamic State for control of the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor for the past year. Ramadi, the provincial capital, is contested, while Fallujah, the second largest city in Anbar, has been under the control of the Islamic State and allied tribes since January 2014.

Habbaniyah and the towns of Saqlawiya and Khalidiyah, all of which are located in the Fallujah-Ramadi corridor, have been the scenes of heavy fighting during this time.

The nearby Camp Saqlawiya, located in the town of the same name, was overrun late last summer. On Sept. 21, 2014 the Islamic State launched a suicide assault on the base. A suicide bomber driving a captured Iraqi military Humvee was able to penetrate base security and detonate his explosives. In the aftermath of the blast, an Islamic State assault team overran the facility. It has been reported that those in the assault team and those involved in the initial suicide assault were dressed in Iraqi military uniforms. Hundreds of Iraqi Army troops and Sunni tribal militiamen were thought to have been killed in this attack. [For more on the fall of Camp Saqlawiya, see LWJ report, Islamic State overruns Iraqi military base in Anbar.]

In July 2014, the Islamic State ambushed and destroyed an Iraqi armored column in Khalidiyah. During the fighting, the Islamic State fighters destroyed three US-supplied M1 Abrams main battle tanks and also captured several American-made M113 armored personnel carriers.

Images from the first photo set can be seen below:

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Images from the second photo set 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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