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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, May 21, 2018

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Islamic State takes over Ramadi city of Iraq

Raised its black flag on buildings

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PHOTO CREDIT: BNN news

BAGHDAD - The Islamic State on Friday claimed major victory as the militant group took over the local government and the police headquarters in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, and raised its black flag on buildings.

The militants have assumed control of most of Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar province that is located around 110 km west of Baghdad.

"Around 90 per cent of Ramadi is now under the control of Daesh," an official said.

After months of fighting government troops for control of the city, the IS launched a major offensive on Thursday, with armored bulldozers and at least six suicide bombings used to burst through the gates and blast through walls in Ramadi.

Anbar Governor Suhaib Al-Rawi said the offensive, including suicide-attacks with explosive-rigged cars near security posts, were continuing on Friday.

State-run Al-Iraqiya TV said that Iraqi and allied forces fought back with coalition airstrikes targeting ISIS positions and Iraqi helicopters actively supporting ground troops.

At least 47 Iraqi security forces and 26 civilians were reported to have been killed in the fighting on Friday.

The Islamic State's advance into Ramadi deals a major blow to the efforts of the Iraqi government to drive the jihadist group out of the country.

The IS fighters have also seized all weapons left behind by security forces.

Later on Friday, the jihadists also blew up some buildings inside the provincial governmental complex, according to witnesses.

Ramadi's fall to Islamic State will consolidate the militants' foothold in Anbar, Iraq's largest province, which stretches to Baghdad and the Syrian border.

According to Reuters, government forces were still in control of a military command centre to the west of the city where fierce fighting was continuing.

"The situation in Ramadi is dire, but the city has not fallen and the battle against criminal Daesh is still ongoing," Anbar governor Sohaib al-Rawi said on Twitter, using an Arabic name for Islamic State.

US Vice-President Joe Biden spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and pledged to deliver heavy weaponry, including shoulder-held rockets and additional ammunition, as well as supplies to the Iraqi force.

The United States announced that it is "expediting" weapon shipments to Iraq because of the fighting in Ramadi.

The weapons include AT-4 shoulder-held rockets to counter vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, as well as ammunition and other supplies, the White House said.

"There will be good days and bad days in Iraq," State Department acting deputy spokesman Jeff Rathke said. ISIS "is trying to make today a bad day in Ramadi."

He added: "We continue to provide targeted air support in ISIL-held and contested areas, and that includes numerous airstrikes in Ramadi today."

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met with military and security leaders on Friday as well as the heads of the air force and counterterrorism and pledged to intensify efforts to "expel the terrorist gangs from Ramadi".

The US military sought to play down the Islamic State gains, telling a Pentagon news conference the militants were broadly "on the defensive" in Iraq.

Marine Corps Brigadier General Thomas Weidley, chief of staff for US-led coalition operations, said Iraqi forces still controlled most "key facilities, infrastructure and lines of communication" in the Ramadi area.

"(Iraqi forces) will eventually take back the terrain," Weidley said via teleconference, according to Reuters.>BNN

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