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In West Anbar, 'Unprecedented Escalation' By Islamic State


A police station in the town of Hit, Anbar Province, damaged by heavy fighting earlier this month. (file photo)

A police station in the town of Hit, Anbar Province, damaged by heavy fighting earlier this month. (file photo)

There has been an "unprecedented escalation" by gunmen from the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq's Anbar Province over the past few days, according to an RFE/RL correspondent in the embattled region.

IS gunmen have seized several townships in the Sunni-dominated province, including Al-Qaim, Ana, Rutba, Rawa, and parts of Ramadi, and control Fallujah and Garma, the correspondent said.

Over the weekend, on October 18, IS militants launched a three-front offensive on the township of Al-Baghdadi between Hit and Haditha in western Anbar, with IS mortar fire hitting civilian homes. While local tribal fighters managed to push IS back from the township, the extremist militants managed to seize some areas close to Al-Baghdadi, and have besieged the town from all sides. As a result, the correspondent said, there are severe food and fuel shortages in the township, which is close to the Ain Al-Assad military base.

The news of the clashes between IS and tribal forces around the Al-Baghdadi township came at the same time as reports that military reinforcements had been sent to the Ain Al-Assad base, including 350 soldiers and medium and light weapons intended for tribal forces.

The pan-Arab news outlet Al-Sharq Al-Awsat also reported on October 20 that military reinforcements had reached western Anbar.

Anbar Provincial Council member Amal Al-Fahdawi said on October 19 that the reinforcements included tanks and would be used to repel IS attacks in western Anbar.

The head of the Anbar Salvation Council, Sheikh Hamid Al-Hayes, told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the security forces in Anbar have been unable to maintain control of land they have liberated from IS. Local tribal forces or police are then unable to repel attacks. The tribal forces do not have sufficient weaponry to face IS, he added.

The reports of increased IS attacks in Anbar also come as the United States announced expanded airstrikes in the province, including around the Fallujah Dam.

-- 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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