Islamic State militants went on the offensive against Iraqi government positions in the Anbar province capital of Ramadi Saturday, despite several days of government insistence that it was preparing for an offensive against the militants. Iraqi media also report that the militants mounted a separate, but unsuccessful attack against the oil refinery town of Beiji.
Islamic State militants fired on government buildings in the center of Ramadi Saturday, at the same time government officials claimed that reinforcements have begun to arrive in the city.
Anbar Provincial Governor Souheib al-Rawi told Iraqi media that three brigades of Iraqi police special forces have begun to arrive in the province, but refused to give exact details of their whereabouts.
He says that he can not say where the police forces have arrived because it is secret information, but that military forces, police, and tribal fighters are all involved in the battle.
Islamic State militants blew up a highway bridge leading to the Bu Faraj district of Ramadi, preventing government forces from entering the area. Witnesses say the militants control Bu Faraj and that several hundred families have fled the area to escape the violence.
Baghdad TV, quoting tribal sources, says Islamic State brought 1500 reinforcements to Ramadi from Mosul during the past 48 hours, during a sandstorm and periods of cloud cover.
Anbar provincial council member Falah al-Aissawi told Iraqi media that three Islamic State suicide car bombers blew themselves up outside Iraqi Army headquarters in northern Anbar. Numerous casualties were reported.
Iraqi state TV reported that the government airlifted light arms and munitions to help in the battle against Islamic State. Asharqiya TV, however, claims that tribal fighters and government forces fought over who would take possession of the arms.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, on a visit to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in the Shi'ite Holy City of Najaf, insisted that Shi'ite volunteer militiamen taking part in the battle to liberate Ramadi would be under government control. Shi'ite parliamentary leader Hazm al-Zamili, however, disputed the prime minister's claim.
Elsewhere, Islamic State militants attacked Iraq's main oil refinery in the town of Beiji, north of Baghdad. Iraqi media reported that the attack was pushed back, after U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombed Islamic State positions. Several oil derricks caught fire, however, after the militants shelled the refinery.