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Islamic State Claims to Seize Ramadi

  • VOA News

In this May 16, 2015 photo, Iraqis fleeing from their hometown of Ramadi, Iraq, rest near the Bzebiz bridge, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad.

In this May 16, 2015 photo, Iraqis fleeing from their hometown of Ramadi, Iraq, rest near the Bzebiz bridge, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad.

The Islamic State group on Sunday claimed to have seized the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, giving the militants their largest victory this year after days of intense clashes.

In Washington, the Pentagon refused to confirm the IS statement, saying only that Ramadi remains "fluid and contested." But others, including a spokesman for the governor of Anbar province, said government solders were fleeing the city.

Iraq security forces withdraw from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Sunday, May 17, 2015.

Iraq security forces withdraw from Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Sunday, May 17, 2015.

Earlier in the day, Iraq's prime minister implored troops not to abandon their posts, and rallied militias to retake the city. Islamic State fighters gained partial control of Ramadi in recent days, despite airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition.

The reported capture of Ramadi gives the group a foothold about 125 kilometers west of the capital, Baghdad.

The militants blasted their way to the city center on Friday, raising their black flag over a local government building.

The bombings continued Sunday, killing 10 soldiers and policemen in two attacks.

In a smaller win for anti-Islamic State forces, Syrian troops have reportedly pushed encroaching IS fighters back from the ancient city of Palmyra in fighting that left dozens dead and threatened the UNESCO World Heritage site.

In a rare move, U.S. special forces staged a ground raid in eastern Syria on Friday into Saturday, killing an Islamic State commander and capturing his wife.

The head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said the Tunisian man known as Abu Sayyaf, who reportedly directed IS oil operations, was among four officials who died in the attack along with 28 other IS members.

The White House and Pentagon on Saturday confirmed Abu Sayyaf's death. Abu Sayyaf's wife remains in U.S. custody in Iraq, according to American officials.

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