May 17, 2015 12:38 PM
Iraqi premier: Don't abandon Anbar to Islamic State group
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq's prime minister ordered his country's security forces not to abandon their positions in Anbar province Sunday to the Islamic State group, as some troops left their weapons and vehicles behind to flee the militants in the embattled city of Ramadi.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also ordered Shiite militias to prepare to go into the Sunni-dominated region, ignoring worries their presence could spark sectarian bloodshed apparently over fears the extremists could seize the province.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Iraq still maintained any control of Ramadi, which the Islamic State group seized much of in recent days.
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. Subsequently, Islamic State militants seized the Malaab area after government forces withdrew.
A police officer who was in Malaab said retreating forces left behind about 30 army vehicles and weapons that included artillery and assault rifles. He said some two dozen police officers also went missing during the fighting.
All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to talk to journalists.
The new setback came only a day after Baghdad's decision to send reinforcements to help its battered forces in Ramadi.
Al-Abadi's comments were carried on state television, which did not elaborate on the situation in Ramadi or elsewhere in Anbar province. Iraqi warplanes also launched airstrikes on Islamic State positions inside Ramadi on Sunday, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said, without elaborating.
Last week, the militants swept through Ramadi, seizing the main government headquarters and other key parts of the city. It marked a major setback for the Iraqi government's efforts to drive the militants out of areas they seized last year.