Thousands flee as IS group advances on Iraq's Ramadi
More than 2,000 families have fled from the Iraqi city of Ramadi, an official said yesterday, as the Islamic State group advanced on the provincial capital of the western Anbar province, clashing with Iraqi troops.
The extremist group, which has controlled the nearby city of Fallujah for more than a year, captured three villages on Ramadi's eastern outskirts on Wednesday. The advance is widely seen as a counteroffensive after the IS group lost the city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, earlier this month.
Hundreds of US troops are training Iraqi forces at a military base west of Ramadi, but a US military official said the fighting had no impact on the US soldiers there, and that there were no plans to withdraw them.
Sattar Nowruz, from the Ministry of Migration and Displaced, said those fleeing Ramadi have settled in southern and western Baghdad suburbs.
Tents, food and other aid are being sent to them, he said. The ministry is also assessing the situation with the provincial government in order "to provide the displaced people, who are undergoing difficult conditions, with better services and help," Nowruz said.
Sporadic clashes were still under way yesterday, according to security officials in Ramadi. Government forces control the city centre while the IS group has had a presence in the suburbs and outskirts for months. They described Ramadi as a ghost town, with empty streets and closed shops.
US-led coalition airstrikes targeted the IS group in Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, the three villages the extremists captured Wednesday, the officials added. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to the media.
Anbar's Deputy Governor Faleh al-Issawi described the situation in Ramadi as "catastrophic" and urged the central government to send reinforcements.