The Associated Press reports: Islamic State militants likely killed up to 500 Iraqi civilians and soldiers and forced 8,000 people to flee from their homes as they captured the Iraqi city of Ramadi, a provincial official said Monday, while the extremists went door-to-door looking for policemen and pro-government tribesmen.
Iraq’s government and Iranian-backed Shiite militias vowed to mount a counter-offensive and reclaim Ramadi, the capital of the overwhelmingly Sunni Anbar province. Iran’s Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan flew to Baghdad on a surprise visit for urgent talks with Iraqi leaders.
The fall of Ramadi was a stunning defeat for Iraq’s security forces and military, which fled as the Islamic State extremists overwhelmed the last hold-out positions of pro-government forces, despite the support of U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the extremists. Online video showed Humvees, trucks and other equipment speeding out of Ramadi, with soldiers desperate to reach safety gripping onto their sides.
Since Friday, when the battle for the city entered its final stages, “we estimate that 500 people have been killed, both civilians and military,” said a spokesman for the Anbar provincial government, Muhannad Haimour.
The figures could not be independently confirmed, but Islamic State militants have in the past killed hundreds of civilians and soldiers in the aftermath of their major victories.
Some 8,000 people fled the city, Haimour said. It was not immediately clear how many people remain in Ramadi — once a city of 850,000 that has been draining population for months amid fighting with the extremists besieging it. An enormous exodus took place in April, when the U.N. estimates some 114,000 residents streamed out of Ramadi and surrounding villages. [Continue reading…]