Q: What are the latest reports coming out of Anbar today?
A: The latest reports indicate that ISIL gunmen have taken control of more than 98% of Ramadi’s area. The gunmen today assaulted the Stadium District – the only Ramadi district held by security forces – and all military units in the district have withdrawn to the areas east of Ramadi, particularly the Khalidiya and Habbaniya areas. The remaining position being held by security forces in the Anbar Operations Command HQ that is now also coming under mortar attacks amid urgent calls being made to rescue the military personnel on site.
Q: The time now in Iraq is about 7:00 pm (Sunday) and there are reports that large numbers of Ramadi’s civilians have been forced to abandon their homes; reports also show that about 500 civilians have been killed. What are the details you have in this regard?
A: The civilian exodus has been ongoing since yesterday and the day before that, when the gunmen took control of the city’s central districts and the government complex. Today, with the fall of most of the other districts, the mass migration has multiplied. Thousands of families have arrived in Khalidiya, Habbaniya, Amiriyat al-Fallujah, and other areas. The disaster is being aggravated by the absence of camps, service facilities, or humanitarian aid. Families are encamped under trees and on the streets. There are also no modes of transport; they are all making their way on foot. Yesterday evening, the deputy council leader, confirmed that 503 persons have been killed, including security personnel and civilian residents who fell victim to the bombardment and the explosive devices and vehicles planted by the ISIL gunmen. The deputy council leader added that more than 29 explosives-filled cars were detonated by the gunmen during their assault. There are also reports that gunmen have executed 18 security fighters whom they had surrounded and captured. ISIL has also been carrying out executions ‘in the field’ but there are no accurate estimates in this regard.
Q: What about the identification of the gunmen: are there foreigners and non-Iraqi Arabs among them, or are they mostly Iraqis?
A: Based on what we have seen and gleaned from eyewitnesses, most of the gunmen are from the local areas, but the leaders and field commanders are mainly foreign. There are also reports that ISIL is now bringing in fighters from Syria via the al-Qa’im border crossing.