Tuesday 6 December 2016

500 killed as key Iraqi city of Ramadi falls to Islamic State terror group

Jon Gambrell

Published 18/05/2015 | 02:30

Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 17, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 17, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
A car is engulfed by flames during clashes in the city of Ramadi, May 16, 2015. Islamic State militants drove security forces from a key military base in western Iraq on Sunday and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi authorized the deployment of Shi'ite paramilitaries to wrest back control of the mainly Sunni province. Picture taken May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
A car is engulfed by flames during clashes in the city of Ramadi, May 16, 2015. Islamic State militants drove security forces from a key military base in western Iraq on Sunday and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi authorized the deployment of Shi'ite paramilitaries to wrest back control of the mainly Sunni province. Picture taken May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
A displaced Iraqi Sunni man pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair on the outskirts of Baghdad, May 17, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Iraq security forces withdraw from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Sunday, May 17, 2015. (AP Photo)
Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Displaced Sunni people fleeing the violence in the city of Ramadi arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, May 16, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Sunni people gather as they flee the violence in the city of Ramadi, May 15, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Smoke rises after a bomb attack in the city of Ramadi, May 15, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Sunni people react as they flee the violence in the city of Ramadi, May 15, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
Sunni people flee the violence in the city of Ramadi, May 15, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer

The Isil extremist group seized control of the key city of Ramadi yesterday, sending Iraqi forces racing out of the city and bringing Isil close to the capital Baghdad.

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Online video showed Humvees, trucks and other equipment purportedly speeding out of Ramadi, with some soldiers gripping onto their sides.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered security forces not to abandon their posts across Anbar province, apparently fearing the extremists could capture the entirety of the vast Sunni province that saw intense fighting after the 2003 US-led invasion of the country to topple dictator Saddam Hussein.

The retreat recalled the collapse of Iraqi police and military forces last summer, when the Isil group's initial blitz into Iraq saw it capture about a third of the country.

It also calls into question American officials' hopes of relying solely on airstrikes to support the Iraqi forces in expelling the extremists.

"Ramadi has fallen," said Muhannad Haimour, a spokesman for the governor of Anbar province. "The city was completely taken... It was a gradual deterioration. The military is fleeing."

A displaced Iraqi Sunni man pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair on the outskirts of Baghdad
A displaced Iraqi Sunni man pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair on the outskirts of Baghdad

The final push by the extremists began early yesterday, when police and army officials said four nearly simultaneous bombings targeted police officers defending the Malaab district in southern Ramadi, killing 10 and wounding 15. Among the dead was Col Muthana al-Jabri, the chief of the Malaab police station.

Later, three suicide bombers drove their explosive-laden cars into the gate of the Anbar Operation Command, the military headquarters for the province, killing five soldiers and wounding 12.

Fierce clashes erupted between security forces and Isil militants after the attacks.

Isil militants later seized Malaab after government forces withdrew, with the militants saying they now held the military headquarters.

A police officer who was in Malaab said retreating forces left behind about 30 army vehicles and weapons that included artillery and assault rifles. He said some two dozen police officers also went missing during the fighting.

On a militant website frequented by Isil members, a message from the group claimed its fighters held the 8th Brigade army base, as well as tanks and missile launchers left behind by fleeing soldiers.

The new setback came only a day after Baghdad's decision to send reinforcements to help its battered forces in Ramadi.

The military had also issued a statement calling on its forces not to abandon Anbar province.

"Victory will be on the side of Iraq because Iraq is defending its freedom and dignity," the military said.

Last week, the militants swept through Ramadi, seizing the main government headquarters and other key parts of the city.

It marked a major setback for the Iraqi government's efforts to drive the militants out of areas they seized last year.

Previous estimates suggested the Isil militant group held at least 65pc of the vast Anbar province.

Irish Independent

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