Isis suicide bombers target government buildings in Ramadi as militants launch counter-offensive in western Iraq

Anbar council member warns government compound "is in great danger"

Heather Saul
Friday 17 April 2015 06:45
Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters gather in central Ramadi before attacking Isis
Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters gather in central Ramadi before attacking Isis

Isis has launched suicide bomb attacks in western Iraq in a counter-offensive after a series of losses, capturing three villages in Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province.

Anbar provincial council member Athal al-Fahdawi told the BBC suicide bombers had targeted government buildings and checkpoints, warning that the government compound was now within range of the militant's weapons. He said Ramadi and its government compound "are in great danger".

The extremist group has lost about a quarter of the territories it initially seized in northern Iraq and was recently forced to withdraw from Tikrit, one of the first cities it overtook.

Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units celebrate in front of the the provincial council building inside the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit on March 31, 2015

At least 2,000 families have fled and are now in a “difficult situation”, Sattar Nowruz, from the Ministry of Migration and Displaced, told the Associated Press. He said the Ministry is in the process of sending tents, food and aid to displaced families.

The Iraqi government still maintains control of the centre of Ramadi, but he said some areas in the outskirts have fallen into the hands of militants.

US-led coalition airstrikes were supporting Iraqi troops on the ground in Ramadi on Thursday and are targeting the three villages seized by Isis — Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya.

Defence Ministry spokesman General Tahseen Ibrahim conceded that Isis has "gained a foothold in some areas" in Anbar. He said reinforcements have been sent to that area and US-led coalition airstrikes were supporting Iraqi forces.

"The situation is under control, and the standoff will be resolved in the coming hours," he told AP.

The counter-offensive comes amid a backdrop of losses for Isis in the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk, in the Syrian capital of Damascus, after militants invaded it on 1 April.

Elijah Magnier, chief international correspondent for Al-Rai Media, told The Independent militants have lost 30 per cent of the camp following clashes with fighters from Palestinian factions and aerial bombardment by the Syrian Government’s military.

Mr Magnier, who has travelled to Yarmouk, said the extremist group is now in control of about 50 per cent of the sprawling camp, which had 18,000 refugees living within its walls before Isis militants entered. Mr Magnier said an estimated 10,000 had fled to Tadamon, an area in Damascus.

Additional reporting by AP

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