ISIS rallies ‘10,000 militants’ at gates of Baghdad
An Iraqi senior government official claimed that up to 10,000 Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters are on the outskirts of Baghdad ready to attack the capital, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Saturday.
As Iraqi officials continue to urge the United States to deploy ground troops into the war-stricken country, a roadside bomb killed the police chief of Iraq’s battleground province of Anbar on Sunday, officials were quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.
“Major General Ahmed Saddag was killed by an IED (improvised explosive device) blast targeting his convoy this morning,” Faleh al-Issawi, the deputy head of the provincial council, told AFP.
“The police chief was leading forces involved in an operation to retake Twei” from ISIS, Colonel Abdulrahman al-Janabi said.
He said clashes between government forces and the militants had erupted in the area on Saturday evening.
Anbar in crisis
Sabah al-Karhout, president of the provisional council of Anbar Province, said most of his province, adjacent to Baghdad, is now under ISIS control.
Two of Anbar’s largest cities, Ramadi and Falluja are known as the “graveyard of the Americans,” making it unlikely that the Pentagon would authorize the redeployment of ground forces, the British daily reported.
However, should the entirety of the province fall under ISIS control, it would facilitate an advancement by the militants into Baghdad where a team of almost 1,500 U.S. troops are mentoring a stressed Iraqi army.
As fighting rages between Syrian Kurds and ISIS militants over control of the Syrian border town of Kobane, Iraqi officials claim the Anbar province is on the verge of collapse.
Government forces in the provincial capital of Ramadi fought back an ISIS offensive on Saturday, but U.S. officials warned that the city remains in a “tenuous” position.
“I think it’s fragile there now,” one senior U.S. defense official told Agence France-Presse.
“They are being resupplied and they’re holding their own, but it’s tough and challenging,” the official explained.
ISIS’s heightened activity led to speculation that the group’s offensive to control Kobane was only a decoy architectured by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed ISIS “caliph.”
Observers, the Telegraph reported, say that while an ISIS-controlled Kobane would not greatly benefit the group strategically, the capture of Ramadi and other cities in Anbar would, as it would be catastrophic for both the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition hoping to contain the group.