Ramadi government HQ captured by Daesh: Iraqi officials

Published May 15th, 2015 - 12:56 GMT
An Iraqi soldier stands guard near Ramadi. (AFP/Azhar Shallal)
An Iraqi soldier stands guard near Ramadi. (AFP/Azhar Shallal)

ISIS (also known as Daesh) militants have seized the government headquarters of Ramadi Friday and raised their flag over the compound, according to Iraqi officials.

Jihadi fighters seized the government complex at around 2:00 pm (1100 GMT) and raised ISIS's black flag, capping an offensive launched Thursday, a police officer said.

ISIS "now occupies the government centre in Ramadi and has also raised its flag over the police HQ for Anbar," according to police major speaking on condition of anonymity.

The group itself issued a statement in which it said its fighters "broke into the Safavid government complex in the center of Ramadi."

The operation "resulted in the control of it after killing the 'murtadeen', then blowing up the adjacent buildings of Anbar's governorate and the Safavid Anbar police HQ."

Safavid is a term used by ISIS in a derogatory way to refer to government forces and "murtadeen" designates Sunni tribal fighters battling alongside the government.

A senior tribal leader in charge of the coordination of local fighters with regular government forces also confirmed the government complex had fallen.

"Daesh has managed to take over the provincial council and they have raised their flag," Sheikh Hekmat Suleiman told AFP by phone, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

"The only [government] forces still fighting are confined to a few pockets in Ramadi but they have no command post anymore," he said.

Earlier in the day, ISIS militants used six car bombs to reach the center of Ramadi , police said.

Ramadi has been contested since last year but the insurgents renewed their offensive on the city in April, gaining ground to the north and east, and launched a fierce assault overnight.

Police said the militants used an armoured bulldozer to remove blast walls blocking the road to the police department, and detonated a car bomb when it reached there.

A Humvee packed with explosives targeted the education department and a third car bomb was detonated at the western entrance to the governorate building in central Ramadi.

On the western side of the city, three car bombs blew up near the Anbar Operations Command.

Hospital sources said in Ramadi said at least 11 people had been killed in the attack.

ISIS has launched attacks on multiple fronts in Iraq's western province of Anbar, in its latest attempt to retake the initiative on the ground, sources on both sides said.

Jihadi fighters are also launching attacks near Fallujah and taking over the small town of Jubbah in western Anbar.

"The situation is critical in the Ramadi battle following an attack by Daesh terrorists last night," provincial council member Adhal Obeid al-Fahdawi said, using an Arab acronym for ISIS.

"Police, army forces and tribal forces are defending the city as we speak to prevent ISIS from taking over entirely. Iraqi and coalition aircraft are in support," he said.

He and other officials said a large number of civilians were fleeing the city center, the second time in a month they have done so following another ISIS offensive in April.

"Families are trying to flee on foot, leaving their cars and homes behind, but most areas around Ramadi are under ISIS control," said Sheikh Jabbar Adjadj al-Assafi, a tribal leader.

ISIS said it had carried out several attacks on army positions east of Ramadi, including one by a British suicide bomber it named as Abu Musa al-Britani.

"Another vehicle driven by our brother martyr Abu Khobayb al-Shami attacked the Al-Majd police station near Al-Haq mosque in Ramadi, followed by an assault that killed who was left," the group said in its daily radio broadcast.

It also claimed to have killed 13 Iraqi soldiers in an attack on a hill east of Ramadi and executed 14 Sunni tribal fighters when it took over the central neighbourhood of Jamiya.

Iraqi security sources and IS confirmed that the town of Jubbah, about 180 kilometres (110 miles) northwest of Baghdad, had been taken over by jihadists.

A tribal leader said the town, which is near the large airbase of Al-Asad where several hundred U.S. advisers are stationed, had been left insufficiently protected.

Both sides also reported several attacks east of Fallujah, only a few miles from the borders of Baghdad governorate, since Thursday but their outcome remained unclear.

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