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News, May 2015
Iraq's Anbar on Brink of Falling to Islamic State Fighters, 32 Syrians Killed in US Air Strike on Dair Ez-Zoar
May 17, 2015
English news stories about war in Iraq and Syria are below the following Arabic news from Yaqen news agency: http://www.yaqen.net/
Iraq's Anbar in 'total collapse', on brink of falling to Islamic State
Reuters, Sun May 17, 2015 12:33 pm EDT
Islamic State fighters overran one of the last remaining districts held by government forces in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Sunday and besieged a key army base on the edge of the western provincial capital, security sources said.
They seized most of Ramadi on Friday, planting their black flag on the local government headquarters in the center of the city, but a contingent of Iraqi special forces was holding out in the Malaab neighborhood.
Those forces retreated on Sunday to an area east of the city after suffering heavy casualties, security sources said, bringing Ramadi to the brink of falling to Islamic State.
It would be the first major urban center to be seized by the (Islamic State) in Iraq since security forces and paramilitary groups began pushing them back last year.
Anbar provincial council member Athal Fahdawi described the situation in Ramadi as "total collapse" and said local officials had voted in favor of the deployment of Shi'ite paramilitaries to the Sunni heartland.
Shi'ite paramilitaries have played a leading role in reversing Islamic State gains elsewhere in Iraq, but have so far been kept on the sidelines in Anbar due to concerns about inflaming sectarian violence.
The (Islamic State fighters) were closing in on the Anbar Operations Command to the west and a military officer inside the army base said it was too late to send reinforcements, pleading for help from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“We are now surrounded inside the Operations Command by (Islamic State fighters), and mortars are raining down," said the officer. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
"(Islamic State fighters) are in almost every street. It’s a chaotic situation and things are sliding out of control. Ramadi is falling into the hands of (Islamic State fighters)," the officer said.
Over a period of 24 hours up to 0500 GMT on Sunday, the U.S.-led coalition carried out seven air strikes near Ramadi, according to a statement -- the highest number on any single location in Iraq and Syria.
Ramadi is the capital of Anbar, Iraq's largest province, and one of just a few towns and cities to have remained under government control in the vast desert terrain, which borders Saudi Arabia, Syria and Jordan.
(Reporting by Baghdad Bureau; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
Iraq tries hard to save Ramadi
Arab News,17 May 2015, 4:55 pm
Iraq’s military has dispatched reinforcements to help its battered forces in Ramadi, a city now largely held by the Islamic State after its fighters swept across it the day before, an Iraqi military spokesman said Saturday.
The spokesman of the Joint Operations Command, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim, told Iraqi state television that the US-led coalition was supporting Iraqi troops with “painful” airstrikes since late Friday.
Ibrahim didn’t give details on the ongoing battles, but described the situation on the ground as “positive” and vowed that the Islamic State group would be pushed out of the city “in the coming hours.”
Local officials said dozens of security forces and civilians were killed, mainly the families of the troops, including 10 police officers and some 30 tribal fighters allied with Iraqi forces.
In a sign of how the latest advance is worrying Washington, US Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Friday, promising the delivery of heavy weapons, including AT-4 shoulder-held rockets to counter suicide car bombs, according to a US Embassy statement.
The statement said both leaders agreed on the “importance and urgency of mobilizing tribal fighters working in coordination with Iraqi security forces to counter IS and to ensure unity of effort among all of Iraq’s communities,” using a different acronym for the group.
Fighting in Iraq’s Ramadi displaces thousands
Fighting in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, where the Islamic State (IS) is threatening to take full control, has displaced around 8,000 people in two days, the International Organization for Migration said Sunday.
A renewed IS assault, which began late Thursday, saw IS fighters
seize the government compound in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
The displaced families went to Amriyat Al-Fallujah, to the east, but
have not been allowed to cross the Euphrates and enter Baghdad province.
According to the IOM, the number of people displaced by Iraq’s
conflict since the beginning of 2014 has reached a new high of more than
According to police sources, fighting took place Sunday in the Malaab neighborhood in eastern Ramadi, one of the last districts where government forces were still present.
Hundreds of forces were hunkering down in their bases in northern parts of Ramadi, waiting for reinforcements promised by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi.
Taking full control of Ramadi, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west
of Baghdad, would be the most significant victory this year for IS,
which has suffered a string of setbacks elsewhere in the country.
Islamic State pulls out of parts of Palmyra city: official, monitoring group
Sun May 17, 2015 6:47am EDT
Islamic State militants have withdrawn from areas in the historic city of Palmyra they had seized on Saturday, a group monitoring the conflict in Syria and a Syrian official said.
The militant group's attack on the government-held city of Palmyra, also known as Tadmur, has raised concern its World Heritage site could meet the same fate as ancient monuments the group has destroyed in Iraq.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring organization, said Islamic State fighters had pulled out of northern areas of the city taken on Saturday but still held a village to the north of Palmyra.
Maamoun Abdulkarim, the Syrian government's antiquities chief, told Reuters the army had regained control of the whole city, and that the ancient ruins to the southwest of the city were unharmed. "The outskirts they had entered were all recovered," he said.
Palmyra is strategically significant because it sits at a crossroads linking it to the cities of Homs and Damascus.
Islamic State has mounted frequent attacks on government-held areas in recent months, part of an apparent effort to expand beyond its strongholds in eastern and northern Syria.
Syrian state TV, citing a military source, said the army had killed dozens of Islamic State militants to the east of Palmyra and were "pursuing their withdrawing remnants in several directions in the area".
Islamic State dead in U.S. Syria raid climbs to 32: monitoring group
Sun May 17, 2015 6:47am EDT
At least 32 Islamic State members, including four of its leaders, were killed in air strikes and a U.S. special forces raid that targeted the group in eastern Syria, a group monitoring the Syrian war said on Sunday.
U.S. officials said the raid killed a senior Islamic State leader identified as a Tunisian who helped to manage its black-market sales of oil and gas to raise funds. A U.S. official said that about a dozen fighters were killed in the raid.
British-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gathers its information from sources in the region.
The operation in the eastern Dair al-Zoar province marked a departure from Washington's strategy of relying primarily on air strikes to target militants in the area.
(Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by David Goodman)
The Pentagon says US commandos have mounted a rare raid in eastern Syria, killing the Islamic State commander in charge of oil fields in a firefight and capturing his wife.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced the raid, identifying the militant as Abu Sayyaf.
He said no US forces were killed or injured.
Syrian state media earlier reported government forces killed at least 40 IS fighters, including a senior commander in charge of oil fields, in an attack Saturday on the country's largest oil field — held by IS.
It identified the commander as Abu Al-Teem al-Saudi.
The Britain-based Syria Observatory for Human Rights confirmed an oil field attack, saying at least 19 IS members, including 12 foreigners, were killed.
The group did not say who carried out the attack.
Islamic State said to advance further near ancient Tadmur (Palmyra)
Reuters, Sat May 16, 2015 7:50am EDT
BEIRUT, (Reuters) -
Islamic State militants were reported to have gained ground against Syrian troops in fighting near the historic city of Tadmur (Palmyra in English media) on Saturday, a target in an offensive by the jihadist group that has raised concern for the U.N. world heritage site.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that reports on the war, also said Islamic State militants had executed 23 people on Friday including nine minors and five women in areas seized from state control outside the city.
Syrian government antiquities chief Maamoun Abdulkarim said fighting continued at 1-2 km (around a mile) from the city, which he said was still "firmly under government control". A military source said fighting was ongoing but at "a distance far from the city".
Abdulkarim, speaking by telephone, added: "We are in the fourth or fifth day (of the attack). What is the international community doing? Is it waiting to weep and despair as it did in northern Iraq?"
Palmyra, also known as Tadmur, is home to extensive ruins of one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world. It was put on UNESCO's list of World Heritage in danger in 2013.
Islamic State, which espouses a puritanical Islamist ideology, has destroyed antiquities and ancient monuments in Iraq. Palmyra is also of strategic importance, sitting at a highway intersection linking it to the cities of Homs and Damascus, some 240 km (150 miles) to the southwest.
UNESCO has expressed deep concern over reports of fighting near Palmyra.
The Syrian government is a pariah to states in the West and in the region that say President Bashar al-Assad has lost legitimacy, complicating any international effort to protect the country's cultural heritage.
A military source said the army had reinforced the city.
But the army is under pressure, having lost ground to other insurgents in the northwest and in the south since late March.
The Observatory reported that Islamic State had seized a gas field to the east of Palmyra - a report denied by the military source. The source said Islamic State was keeping up its attack but the fighting on Saturday was at a lower intensity.
The mass execution reported by the Observatory is the second such killing it has recorded since Islamic State advanced this week into the area. In the first, the Observatory said the jihadists had executed 26 men, beheading 10 of them.
The Syrian military source said there had been one massacre of 30 or more people in that area, including elderly men.
The Syrian military has been mounting air strikes against Islamic State fighters in the area. Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, said the sides were fighting near a military intelligence building in Palmyra on Saturday.
The Islamic State offensive in central Syria has added to the pressures facing government forces that have faced significant setbacks since late March in the four-year-long war.
Other insurgent groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad have seized control of wide areas of the northwestern province of Idlib since late March. Assad has also lost a border crossing with Jordan in the south.
This week the Syrian army and the allied Lebanese group Hezbollah have driven insurgents from wide areas of the mountainous region to the north of Damascus, shoring up Assad's grip over the border zone between Syria and Lebanon.
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