Curfew in Iraqi city amid fears of advance by Islamic State
Move comes as serie sof attacks in Baghdad kill at least 28 people
A member of the Iraqi security force searches a man at a checkpoint in Ramadi. Photograph: Reuters
Iraq imposed a curfew in the western city of Ramadi amid fears the Islamic State (IS) group was looking to advance on the strategically important city.
The move came as attacks in Baghdad killed 28 people, officials said.
The curfew is part of an effort to limit movement in and out of the city as government forces prepared to combat pockets of resistance there, said Sabah Karhout, the chairman of the Anbar provincial council.
Ramadi, the capital of the vast Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, is 120km west of Baghdad.
The Islamic State (IS) group has in recent weeks been making gains against the embattled Iraqi military around Ramadi despite ongoing, US-led coalition airstrikes on the militants.
Capturing Ramadi could have a huge ripple effect throughout Anbar, since controlling the provincial capital ultimately paralyses the surrounding areas and further helps the militants secure yet another corridor between Syria and Iraq for the passage of fighters, munitions and field artillery.
IS and allied Sunni militants seized the Anbar city of Fallujah, parts of Ramadi and large rural areas of Anbar early this year.
The loss of Fallujah - where American troops engaged in some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year US-led war in the country - foreshadowed the later loss of Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul and much of the north.
Mosul and the northern areas fell to the IS group in its blitz in June.
“Limited US airstrikes in Anbar are not enough,” said Liqaa Wardi, an Anbar provincial politician. “We do not want to see airstrikes being wasted on minor targets, like a lone pick-up truck moving in the desert.”
She said the people of Anbar need airstrikes targeting the IS group’s “command centrer, high-value targets and big gatherings by the terrorists”.
Earlier this week, Anbar provincial police chief Brigadier General Ahmed al-Dulaimi was killed while travelling in a convoy north of Ramadi through an area cleared by Iraqi security forces a day earlier, Anbar councilman Faleh al-Issawi said.
Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi met a delegation from Anbar yesterday and urged the province’s tribes to side with Iraqi security forces in the fight against IS militants.
The government has repeatedly said that winning over the Sunni tribes is an essential part of the solution in Iraq.
Last night, the UN Security Council condemned “the vicious string of suicide, vehicle-borne, and other attacks in Baghdad and surrounding provinces over the past several days” under the name of IS and stressed that the group must be defeated.
Ramadi has not completely fallen to the IS group over the past months, in part because key Sunni tribes in the city have not allowed it to.
The Jughaifi and al-Bunimer tribes have helped Iraqi special forces to protect the Haditha Dam in Anbar, and in the battleground town of Dhuluiyah, north of Baghdad, a single tribe, al-Jabbouri, has been the sole resistance to an IS takeover.
In his weekly Friday sermon, Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said Iraqi tribes have always been fundamental to protecting Iraq and its people.
“We urge the Iraq faithful tribesmen, especially those in western Iraq who have been subjected to a fierce campaign by Daesh in recent months, to trust their abilities, and the ability of the Iraqi army to defeat those gangs,” the reclusive cleric said. Daesh is the IS group’s Arabic acronym.
Also yesterday, Iraqi troops pressed on with operations in Salahuddin province to retake key areas from the Sunni militants between the city of Tikrit, which mostly remains in the control of the Sunni militant group, and the town of Beiji, home to Iraq’s largest oil refinery.
Two Iraqi military officials said the operation was receiving significant aerial support from US-led coalition forces.
After nightfall yesterday, a car bomb exploded near a cafe in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Baladiyat, killing 14 people and wounding 27, police officials said.
A car bomb blast at a commercial street in northern Baghdad killed seven people and wounded 13, and later yesterday a car bomb explosion near alcohol stores in the centre of the city killed seven people and wounded 13, police said.