The Islamic State launched a new offensive in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s western province of Anbar, and took control of an outlying district north of the city after heavy fighting with Iraqi troops.
The Islamic State assaulted numerous parts of the western provincial capital, including Albu Faraj, which is just north of the Euphrates River, according to Al Jazeera. Heavy fighting in the city forced Iraqi commanders in Ramadi to call for reinforcements from Baghdad.
‘Amaq News, the unofficial news agency of the Islamic State, released a statement detailing the situation. According to ‘Amaq, the Islamic State launched a large offensive on Albu Faraj, which “triggered heavy clashes between the Islamic State and Shia militias.” ‘Amaq also claimed that the jihadist group was able to destroy two tanks and killed several Iraqi troops in “martyrdom operations,” or suicide bombings. To end the statement, ‘Amaq claimed that the Islamic State took several Iraq troops captive.
Iraqi press reports have not mentioned the suicide attacks or the capture of Iraqi troops. Photographs of Abu Tahla al Shami [the Syrian] and Abu Hamid al Uzbeki, the suicide bombers used in Albu Faraj, have been released on Twitter.
At first, the spokesman for Anbar’s provincial council claimed that Iraqi troops “repelled the terrorist attack” and “Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) failed miserably” in its assault on Albu Faraj and Ramadi, “>Al Arabiya reported. Shafaaq News claimed that the Iraqi Security Forces were able to kill “a number of attackers.”
But the Anbar Provincial Council later conceded that Albu Faraj was overrun by the Islamic State. A spokesman said that the Islamic State “fully dominated the Albu Faraj zone after fierce fighting with the joint [Iraqi] forces since the morning,” Almada Press reported. Fifteen Iraqi troops were said to have been killed in the fighting.
Fighting is ongoing in the Sijariyah area to the east of Ramadi. The Anbar Provincial Council has said that many Islamic State fighters have fled the area, while the Anbar Operations Command claimed that its forces killed 23 jihadist fighters during recent operations. Faleh al Issawi, the deputy chairman of the Anbar Provincial Council, has said that the Hezbollah Brigades and Saraya al Salam (Peace Brigades), two Shiite militias, are working with Iraqi forces in the Sijariyah area.
The Hezbollah Brigades, or Kata’ib Hezbollah, receives funding, training, logistics, guidance, and material support from the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The United States designated the Hezbollah Brigades as a terrorist organization in July 2009. On the same day, the US added a Qods Force commander who supported the “Special Groups,” such as the Hezbollah Brigades, to the list of specially designated global terrorists. The so-called Special Groups are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US and allied soldiers between 2004 and 2011. (For more information, see LWJ report, US sanctions Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades and Qods Force adviser.)
Saraya al Salam, or Peace Brigades, is led by Muqtada al Sadr, the former leader of the Mahdi Army, Iraq’s largest Shiite militia during the Iraq War. The Mahdi Army was responsible for the deaths of numerous US soldiers. After the Mahdi Army’s dissolution, al Sadr created the Promised Day Brigade which now calls itself the Peace Brigades. Muqtada has traditionally been supported by Iran.
The Islamic State’s new assault in Ramadi comes just 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.” If the Islamic State seizes control of the provincial capital, Iraqi troops and allied Shiite militias’ task of liberating Anbar will become far more difficult.
Photographs from Albu Faraj and Ramadi:
Abu Tahla al Shami:
Abu Hamid al Uzbeki:
Photographs of the fighting in Ramadi:
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