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Islamic State claims dozens of troops killed in suicide assault in western Anbar

The Islamic State took responsibility for the killing of dozens of Iraqi security personnel in a suicide assault on a police station in a western Anbar province town which was recently liberated from the jihadist organization.

The Islamic State claimed the attack on a police station in Kubaysah near Hit in an official statement released on its social media accounts. The statement was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.

“Four immersers from the soldiers of the Islamic State were able to carry out an attack on the Kubaysah police station in western al Anbar,” according to SITE. The group claimed the four-man suicide assault team penetrated security at the police station, and “two of the soldiers of the Caliphate detonated their explosive belts amidst them,” killing “nearly 50 apostates including soldiers and officers.” The other two attackers were said to have “returned safely to their headquarters.”

Iraqi media has not independently confirmed the report of the attack in Kubaysah. Attacks such as the one claimed by the Islamic State are common in both Iraq and Syria, and occur on a daily basis.

The Islamic State has suffered significant setbacks in Anbar over the past six months with the losses of several major cities and towns along the Euphrates River. In some areas, the Islamic State has pulled back to conduct guerrilla attacks against Iraqi security forces, tribal fighters, and the Shiite militias which have filled the security vacuum.

Kubaysah was first occupied by the Islamic State  in early October 2014, and held for more than two years before the Iraqi military liberated the town toward the end of last month. Two weeks after the Iraqi military regained control of Kubaysah, the nearby town of Hit was also wrestled from the Islamic State. Like Kubaysah, Hit fell to the Islamic State in October 2014.

The Islamic State’s grip on Anbar province has loosened this year as Iraqi security forces, backed by US airstrikes and Iranian-support Shiite militas, pressed an offensive in the western desert province. Ramadi, the provincial capital, fell to the Islamic State in May 2015, 10 months after the US initiated airstrikes against the group. The Iraqi military suffered a humiliating defeat after retreating from the government center, the Anbar Operations Command headquarters, and other major police and military installations in and around the city. Iraqi forces entered the center of Ramadi at the end of December 2015. Much of the city lies in rubble after months of heavy fighting and US airstrikes.

While the Islamic State has suffered losses in Anbar, it still controls Fallujah, the province’s second largest city located just 36 miles from Baghdad. In January 2014, Fallujah was the first Iraqi city to fall to the Islamic State (The Islamic State was know at that time as the Islamic State of Iraq, and was still loyal to al Qaeda). In eastern Anbar, Karma and Abu Ghraib are either contested or controlled by the Islamic State. The Iraqi military and supporting Shiite militias have announced numerous operations to retake Fallujah and surrounding areas, but each have failed.

In Western Anbar, the Islamic State remains in control of Al Qaim and the surrounding towns up to and including Anah, as well as the border crossing with Syria. Just across the border in Syria, the Islamic State also remains in control of Abu Kamal and a host of towns along the Euphrates River.

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