The New York Times reports that the city of Ramadi, capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, has fallen to the Islamic State. Security officials and tribal leaders say that the militant group has seized a large store of abandoned weapons and begun executing people loyal to the government.
According to Muhannad Haimour, the spokesman for Anbar’s governor, in the last 48 hours, at least 500 civilians and security personnel have been killed in the fighting or executed. “The city has fallen,” Haimour told the Times.
Police and army officials said four nearly simultaneous bombings 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 erupted between security forces and Islamic State militants following the attacks. Islamic State militants later seized Malaab after government forces withdrew, with the militants saying they now held the military headquarters.
Ramadi’s loss comes after a period of intensified American airstrikes and a failed attempt by the Iraqi military to reclaim the Anbar province from ISIS.
“Men, women, kids and fighters’ bodies are scattered on the ground,” Sheikh Rafe al-Fahdawi, a tribal leader from Ramadi, told the Times. “All security forces and tribal leaders have either retreated or been killed in battle. It is a big loss.”
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered Shiite militias to arm prepare to launch a counteroffensive to reclaim Anbar, a majority-Sunni region.