ISIS Exploited Sandstorm To Launch Attack On Iraqi City

Erica Wenig | Contributor

Islamic State jihadis used a sandstorm to obfuscate their movements while launching a well-planned offensive and overrunning Ramadi last week.

American warplanes were unable to strike during the storm, as Islamic State militants launched at least 10 suicide bombings and used bulldozers to demolish city walls, according to The New York Times. An estimated 400 Islamic State fighters defeated the remaining 1,000 Iraqi officers and soldiers, seen fleeing the city Sunday.

More than 500 civilians and soldiers were killed and anther 8,000 fled as Islamic State militants gained control of Ramadi, hoisting its flag over the main government complex before lighting the building on fire. It was the Islamic State’s biggest victory since capturing Mosul last summer, Iraq’s second-largest city. (RELATED: ISIS Gains Control Over Govt Buildings And Mosque In Key Iraqi City)

Ramadi once had a population of 850,000. It’s unknown how many residents are still inside the city, an important link between Baghdad and Iraq’s borders with Jordan and Syria.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi dispatched Shiite militias to retake Ramadi, although initially hesitant it could ignite sectarian tensions in the mostly-Sunni, Anbar province. About 3,000 fighters from militias under the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) umbrella group, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, flooded the area yesterday.

The decision to use Shiite militias to oust the Sunni Islamic State presents a challenge for American policymakers, seeking U.S.-backed, Iraqi forces to lead the battle rather than Iran-backed, paramilitary groups. A Pentagon spokesperson told The Daily Caller News Foundation the decision falls in Baghdad’s hands, in addition to local leaders and tribes.

Shiite militias have played a key role in recapturing Iraqi cities from the Islamic State such as Tikrit and Amerli. But they are also accused of perpetrating acts of sectarian violence, killing Sunnis and looting newly-liberated areas. (RELATED: Rampage In Iraqi Village Shows Cracks In US Middle East Policy)

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