PRAYER ALERT: On May 14 ISIS launched a blitz against Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, after besieging it for weeks. ISIS captured the northern parts of the city and closed in on the periphery. Observers feared that if ISIS takes Ramadi, Iraqi troops would flee. That is what happened when ISIS took Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province, a year ago. And that is what happened on May 17. That morning ISIS took advantage of a sandstorm shielding them from US warplanes. ISIS militants triggered four nearly simultaneous bombs in southern Ramadi, killing 10 police officers and wounding 15. They then struck Anbar Province’s military headquarters with three suicide bombers, killing five Iraqi soldiers. Though the ISIS force was much smaller, the rest of the government troops jumped into Humvees and trucks and sped away. Many soldiers were clinging to the vehicles’ sides. In their haste they left behind 30 other US-supplied military vehicles plus weapons for ISIS to add to its arsenal.
ISIS fighters then went door to door with lists of pro-government Sunni collaborators. They looted and torched homes and stores. They left dead bodies—some charred—strewn in the city streets. Other dead victims they dumped into the Euphrates River. ISIS militants killed a total of about 500 and forced 8000 to flee. About 114,000 had already left in April, dreading what they would face if ISIS takes Ramadi. Over the months of fighting, the city’s population has shrunk to a fraction of its former population of 850,000. Few now dare go out into the streets.
ISIS plans to fill in the void. It now controls not only the capital Ramadi, but also 60 percent of Anbar Province. Anbar is mostly desert land stretching from Syria and Jordan all the way to the western edge of Baghdad. Its population consists almost entirely of Iraq’s Sunni minority. Anbar was the heart of the Sunni insurgency against the US intervention in Iraq. With US troops now gone, the Shiite-led Iraqi government has promised to arm and support the Sunnis against ISIS. But the arms have come slowly. And the support has come mostly from Iran-backed Shiite militia. Many Sunnis view Shiite militia as much their enemies as they do ISIS…
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