ISIS Claim they have taken full control of Iraqi City of Ramadi

ISIS claim they have taken full control of Iraqi city of Ramadi after security forces flee following series of suicide car bombings

ISIS has taken full control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi after days of continuous bloody fighting and a series of suicide car bombs which have left more than 500 people dead.

This afternoon, a message purporting to be from the terror group said militants had sealed its capture of the embattled city after a dramatic pullout by Iraqi forces following the bombings.

The post, published on a militant website frequently used by ISIS, said the jihadists had ‘purged’ the city, home to more than 500,000 people, including the 8th Brigade army base and tanks and missile launchers left behind by fleeing soldiers.

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The statement said: ‘God has enabled the soldiers of the caliphate to cleanse all of Ramadi… after storming the 8th brigade.’

This evening, Muhannad Haimour, spokesman and adviser to the governor in the province of Anbar, said `Ramadi has fallen’ to ISIS, adding: ‘Anbar operations command has been cleared.’

The effective loss of the capital of Iraq’s largest province will mark one of Baghdad’s worst setbacks since it began a nationwide offensive last year to reclaim territory lost to ISIS.

Earlier, the Iraqi prime minister had ordered his country’s security forces not to abandon their positions in Anbar province.ISIS_claim_taken_full_control_Ramadi_Iraq_2

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged the forces to hold firm as some troops escaped the city, leaving vehicles and weapons behind.

He also ordered Shiite militias to prepare to go into the Sunni-dominated region, ignoring worries their presence could spark sectarian bloodshed, apparently over fears the extremists could seize the province.

‘There is continuous air cover that will help ground troops there hold their positions while waiting for support from other forces and the Popular Mobilisation Units,’ he said.

Officials said four car bombings in the city – which is 60miles west of Baghdad – had targeted police officers defending the Malaab district in southern Ramadi, killing 10 and wounding 15.

Among the dead was Col. Muthana al-Jabri, the chief of the Malaab police station, they said.

Later on, police said three suicide bombers drove their explosive-laden cars into the gate of the Anbar Operation Command, the military headquarters for the province, killing five soldiers and wounding 12.

Fierce clashes subsequently erupted between security forces and ISIS. The militants later seized the Malaab area following a withdrawal from government forces.ISIS_claim_taken_full_control_Ramadi_Iraq_4

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A police officer who was in Malaab said retreating forces left behind about 30 army vehicles and weapons that included artillery and assault rifles. He said some two dozen police officers also went missing during the fighting.

The new setback came only a day after Baghdad’s decision to send reinforcements to help its battered forces in Ramadi.

Al-Abadi’s comments were carried on state television, which did not elaborate on the situation in Ramadi or elsewhere in Anbar province. Iraqi warplanes also launched airstrikes on Islamic State positions inside Ramadi on Sunday, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said, without elaborating.

Last week, the militants swept through Ramadi, seizing the main government headquarters and other key parts of the city.

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Previous estimates suggested ISIS held at least 65 percent of the vast Anbar province.

Backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, Iraqi forces and Kurdish fighters have made gains against the Islamic State group, including capturing the northern city of Tikrit.

But progress has been slow in Anbar, a Sunni province where anger at the Shiite-led government runs deep. American soldiers fought some of their bloodiest battles since Vietnam on the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi.

The U.S.-led coalition said earlier today that it conducted seven airstrikes in Ramadi in the last 24 hours, as well as three in Fallujah.

‘It is a fluid and contested battlefield,’ said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. ‘We are supporting (the Iraqis) with air power.’

The International Organization for Migration said two days of fighting in Ramadi had displaced around 8,000 people.

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Haimour said at least 500 people, both civilians and military, were killed in the jihadist offensive.

Meanwhile, a band of Monuments Men has came together to help hide 2,000-year-old artefacts from the clutches of ISIS as the terror group advanced on one of the world’s most important archaeological sites.

The ancient ruins of Palmyra in Syria were under threat after fighters advanced to within little more than a mile of the gates when they swept through nearby villages, but they were prevented by Syrian troops.

The militants even moved into the residential northern areas of the town itself. Fears remain they could desecrate the UNESCO world heritage site in the same way they have similar treasures in Iraq.

In a nod to the George Clooney film of the same name which came out last year, a group of locals calling themselves the Monuments Men rushed to hide and bury museum pieces, gather small artefacts and stand guard over the ruins since the threat first emerged last week.

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