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IS Gunmen Advance In Central Ramadi, Take Control Of Government Buildings

A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard at a camp between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

A member of the Iraqi security forces stands guard at a camp between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

IS gunmen have managed to take over a number of important government buildings amid fierce fighting in downtown Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's embattled Anbar Province, RFE/RL's correspondent in Iraq reported in the early afternoon of April 17.

Iraqi government troops are battling to regain control of the buildings, while the government is pouring reinforcements into the city, the correspondent said.

A "huge convoy" of thousands of residents left Ramadi earlier on April 17, according to the correspondent. However, government troops did not allow residents to flee towards Baghdad, so many are stuck on the road.

The report followed warnings by a member of Anbar's Provincial Council on April 16 that military reinforcements sent to Iraq's embattled Anbar Province to help battle Islamic State (IS) militants were not enough to prevent the city from falling.

Azal al-Fahdawi told the Iraqi media that IS gunmen were besieging the provincial capital, Ramadi, from all directions.

IS militants have made a renewed push to take Ramadi, with a large assault on the city on April 10.

Despite reports that reinforcements had been sent to support Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters in Ramadi, al-Fahdawi said the military assistance and weapons that have been dispatched are not enough to "thwart the terrorists' attacks and defend the city from falling."

"The government has to take the Anbar battle seriously and work to support security forces and tribesmen to liberate the province from Daesh," al-Fahdawi said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Iraq reported on April 16 that six regiments had arrived to support the operations in the Bu-Farraj area of Ramadi and by the afternoon of April 16 had positioned themselves around the areas east of Ramadi.

(WATCH: The exodus from Ramadi)

While the Anbar Council announced that IS had taken control of broad areas east of the city, security forces supported by the Golden Division had liberated other areas including Street 40, the ring road connecting the eastern areas with central Ramadi, RFE/RL's correspondent said.

Iraqi security forces also attacked a number of barracks captured by IS two days previously.

The Iraqi security forces were supported by coalition warplanes and Iraqi air support have carried out strikes in the Bu-Farraj and surrounding areas.

However, the top U.S. general said that the United States is more concerned about protecting Iraq's largest oil refinery at Baiji than Ramadi. The United States and its allies have been focusing airborne intelligence, surveillance, and aerial bombing on Baiji.

"I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won't be the end of the campaign should it fall," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on April 16.

Brigadier Abdul Amir al-Khazraji, the deputy commander of the Golden Division, which is part of Iraq's Special Forces, told the Baghdad Times on April 17 that the events in Ramadi were similar to what had occurred in Mosul, which IS militants overran last year.

Khazraji said that IS had progressed in the Albu Ghanem area to the east of Ramadi, which had been vulnerable to IS advances. "Certain collaborators" had assisted IS by calling on locals to withdraw and for families to flee, Khazraji alleged, similar to what happened in Mosul.

After IS overran Mosul in June 2014, reports emerged suggesting that IS militants worked with collaborators, including those who were former army officers or disaffected Sunni tribesmen.

Khazraji's claims have yet to be supported by evidence of collaboration, however. Moreover, the situation in Albu Ghanim is not clear, with reports that IS gunmen have executed at least 32 residents of Albu Ghanim, while 40 more are still missing, most of whom are security personnel.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena


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