ISIL militants have in three days killed more than 500 Iraqis, including civilians and soldiers, and forced 8,000 others to flee their homes in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, which has reportedly been seized by the terrorists, a provincial official says.
"We do not have an accurate count yet. We estimate that 500 people have been killed, both civilians and military, and approximately 8,000 have fled the city," said an Anbar spokesman, Muhannad Haimour, on Monday.
According to a Sunday announcement by Muhannad Haimour, the governor’s spokesman in Anbar, Ramadi has “fallen” to ISIL terrorists.
ISIL claimed the complete seizure of the city in an online message, alleging that the terrorists had taken over the 8th Brigade army base as well as tanks and missile launchers in Ramadi.
Streets in Ramadi are littered with bodies, some burned, amid reports by local officials about the mass killing of Iraqi security forces and civilians by the ISIL Takfiri militants.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also on Sunday ordered the Iraqi army to "hold their positions" in the strategic city in a bid to obstruct ISIL’s advances.
"There is continuous air cover that will help ground troops there hold their positions while waiting for support from other forces and the Popular Mobilization Units," Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for the premier, said.
It is estimated that over 60 percent of Anbar is under the ISIL terrorists’ control. The area stretches from the western edge of Baghdad all the way to Syria and Jordan.
Volunteer forces, also known as the Popular Mobilization Units, have vowed to dislodge ISIL terrorists from Ramadi, located about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad.
Youssef al-Kilabi, a spokesman for the Shia forces who are fighting alongside the government forces, told The Associated Press that the Shia fighters have devised plans to launch an offensive on Ramadi in cooperation with the government forces.
Al-Kilabi said Shia fighters would "eliminate the barbaric enemy," and "achieve this triumph and we will not accept anything less than that."
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been in chaos since ISIL started its campaign of terror in early June 2014.
Since then, Iraq’s army has been joined by Kurdish forces, as well as Shia and Sunni volunteers in operations to drive the ISIL terrorists out of the areas they have seized.
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