Islamic State seizes village in Iraq's Anbar province
Islamic State militants gained ground in western Iraq on Wednesday, overrunning another village near the capital of Anbar province in a dawn raid, police sources and local officials said.world Updated: Apr 15, 2015 21:58 IST
Islamic State militants gained ground in western Iraq on Wednesday, overrunning another village near the capital of Anbar province in a dawn raid, police sources and local officials said.
Hundreds of families fled Albu Ghanim after security forces came under attack from the militants overnight and withdrew from the area, around 5 km (3 miles) northeast of the provincial capital Ramadi.
Abu Jasim, who left Albu Ghanim soon after it fell early on Wednesday, said the insurgents had set up a checkpoint at the main entrance to the village and planted their black flag there.
"IS stopped us and said we have came to liberate you from these Safavids and rejectionists," Abu Jasim said. Safavid and rejectionist are derogatory terms used by hardline Sunni Islamists to refer to Shi'ites.
"We told them we were leaving because the kids were terrified. They let us go, and we saw bodies lying in the streets, some police and others civilians."
The militants have been making inroads on Ramadi's northern periphery since the government announced the start of a new offensive last week to recapture the Sunni heartland of Anbar.
Two federal police battalions arrived in Ramadi on Wednesday to reinforce the beleaguered forces, according to a colonel and a policeman.
Another resident who left Albu Ghanim said the jihadists had declared their victory via loudspeaker in the village mosque. Abu Amar said his son, a policeman, was missing, and he had heard the militants had a list of conscripts whom they had already begun executing.
Large parts of Anbar had slipped from the government's grasp even before Islamic State seized the northern city of Mosul last June and proclaimed a caliphate straddling the border between Iraq and Syria.
Security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries have since regained some ground in Iraq, although core Sunni territories remain under Islamic State control, including Nineveh province, of which Mosul is capital, and most of Anbar.
The new Anbar campaign was intended to build on a victory in the city of Tikrit, which Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries retook this month.
But the Sunni jihadists have struck back in Anbar as well as Baiji, where they blasted through the security perimeter around Iraq's largest refinery several days ago.
The operations command for Salahuddin province in which Baiji is located said skirmishes between security forces and the militants continued on Wednesday inside the refinery compound.
The US-led coalition said in a statement on Wednesday it had conducted air strikes in support of Iraqi forces in both Baiji and around Ramadi.