Islamic State (IS) militants have stepped up propaganda efforts in Iraq's western Anbar Province, releasing a set of images that purport to show the group giving out aid to local people in the town of Hit. IS militants captured Hit in October.
A second set of Anbar propaganda images, shared by Islamic State on December 5, claim to show "the liberated city of Hit". IS militants use the word "liberated" to describe areas it has captured.
The first set of photographs, uploaded onto the Justpaste.it site on December 4, show bags of aid -- including blankets and foodstuffs like bulgur wheat -- in a warehouse and being given to children in what appears to be a kindergarten or school.
The photographs of Hit show fruit and vegetables on sale at a market, a busy street with traffic, and the Euphrates River. There are no women visible in any of the photographs.
The images aim to show that Islamic State is benevolent toward the local population in Anbar and that is capable of administering aid and maintaining prosperous life in the towns under its control.
The release of the images comes amid reports of intensified clashes between Iraqi security forces and IS militants in Iraq's western Anbar Province including around Hit and in the provincial capital, Ramadi. Islamic State militants came close to taking Ramadi last month and have launched repeated attacks on the city, which is one of the last remaining urban areas under Baghdad's control in Anbar.
An RFE/RL correspondent in Iraq reported on December 4 that there were "now massive troop concentrations around [Hit's] perimeter." The correspondent said that the reports indicated that the major military campaign against Islamic State, which has been mentioned in news reports for some weeks, is "on the verge of being launched."
The Kuluiraq news site on December 5 quoted Anbar operations commander Major General Qassim al-Muhammadi as saying that Iraqi security forces had made "significant progress" in Hit, Al-Sajaria east of Ramadi, and the Hawz area of Ramadi. An RFE/RL correspondent reported on December 4 that IS gunmen had launched an attack against the Fast Response Brigade in Hawz but were repelled by security forces and tribal fighters.
Tribal forces in Anbar, however, have complained that the central government in Baghdad has failed to provide them with sufficient aid to help them fight Islamic State. On December 3, Sheikh Naim Gaud, a senior figure with the Albu Nimr tribe in Hit, threatened that his clan would stop fighting Islamic State if Baghdad did not supply military aid.
Gaud has previously said that his tribe feels "abandoned and neglected" by the central government.
Islamic State militants massacred hundreds of members of the Sunni Albu Nimr tribe in and around Hit in October.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk