Daily Archives: May 17, 2015

ISIS claims full control of Ramadi after Iraqi troops abandon positions

1

Iraqi forces have retreated from a compound they used as a command center in Ramadi, losing control of Aden’s provincial capital to Islamic State militants, despite substantial US airstrike support helping Iraqi troops and loyal militia hold the city.

“Ramadi has fallen,”said Muhannad Haimour, a spokesman for the governor of Anbar province. “The city was completely taken. … The military is fleeing.”The spokesman added that at least 500 people were killed in the jihadist offensive.

he militants claimed their full control of the city after squashing last major pocket of resistance from tribal and government forces.

“God has enabled the soldiers of the caliphate to cleanse all of Ramadi… after storming the 8th brigade. They (now) control it along with a battalion of tanks and missile launchers and in addition to the Anbar operations command,” the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) statement said. The group also said it had seized tanks and killed dozens Iraqi security forces.

The final ISIS offensive that drove out government forces and tribal militias began early Sunday. Militants focused their attack on police officers defending the Malaab district in southern Ramadi by simultaneous bombings. Another three suicide bombers stormed the gate of the military headquarters to take control of the Anbar Operation Command.

Jihadis “pushed into the Ramadi military command headquarters after a fierce fight. The whole city is under their control,” Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a tribal leader told Bloomberg via phone.

Local security officials told AP that the militants already carried out mass killings of Iraqi security forces and civilians. Sunni tribal leader, Naeem al-Gauoud, said that bodies litter the streets in Ramadi, while others are thrown in the river.

Two days of fighting in Ramadi had displaced around 8,000 people according to the International Organization for Migration.

Ramadi has been captured despite US-led air support and a counter-offensive by Iraqi forces to recapture the city. At least seven airstrikes in Ramadi were conducted in the last 24 hours – the highest number of strikes to target any single location. “It is a fluid and contested battlefield,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. “We are supporting (the Iraqis) with air power.”

The Pentagon refused to immediately admit Ramadi had fallen, with Defense Department spokeswoman Maureen Schumann saying it was “too early to make definitive statements about the situation on the ground.” She said the United States was “continuing to monitor reports of tough fighting in Ramadi and the situation remains fluid and contested.”

The Islamic State indeed has military advantage in Ramadi, the Pentagon confirmed, warning that the city falling into the hands of jihadists would be a great propaganda boost for them. But in the worst case, official said according to Reuters, the US-led coalition would support Iraqi army in taking the city back “later.”

 

‘Not aimed at third country’: Russia & China start joint drills at Mediterranean

Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship, Moskva, leaving the port of Sevastopol for the joint Russia-China exercises in the Mediterranean.

Nine Russian and Chinese warships kicked off joint military exercises dubbed, ‘Sea Cooperation – 2015’ in the Mediterranean on Sunday, the Russian Defense ministry said.

“The active phase of the exercises will be held in the Mediterranean between May 17 and 21, about 10 warships from the Russian Navy and the People’s Liberation Army Navy [of China] will be participating,” a statement from the Defense Ministry said.

The flagship of the Crimea-based Russian Black Sea Fleet, guided missile cruiser the ‘Moskva’, will be the headquarters for the drills, the statement added.

The goal of the Russia-China exercises “is to strengthen mutual understanding between the navies… regarding boosting stability, countering new challenges and threats at sea,” Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Fedotenkov, a deputy commander of the Russian Navy, who is leading the exercises from the Russian side, said.

Chinese Navy Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral Du Czinchen, will be China’s commander of the drills.

Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov stressed “the war games aren’t aimed against any third country and aren’t linked to the political situation in the region.”

The Chinese Defense Ministry said earlier the joint maneuvers will focus on navigation safety, at-sea replenishment, escort missions and live fire exercises.

Besides the Moskva, Bora-class hover borne guided missile corvette the Samum, Krivak-class missile frigate the Ladny, Project 775 Large Landing Ships (LLS), the Aleksandr Otrakovsky and Aleksandr Shabalin, and Navy Tug MB-31 will be taking part in the exercise from the Russian side.

China sent a pair of 4,000-ton Type 54A Jiangkai II frigates – the ‘Linyi (574)’ and the ‘Weifang (547)’ as well as a replenishment ship, the ‘Wei Shanhu,’ to the Mediterranean.

The Russian-Chinese exercise comes at a time when NATO and its allies are holding military drills all over Europe.

Earlier, Russia announced its land forces will take part in a series of joint drills with troops in China, Belarus, India, and Mongolia later this year. The exercises will focus on peacekeeping and antiterrorist activities, the Kremlin said.

With relations between Moscow and the West having deteriorated over the Ukraine crisis, Russia has increased cooperation with its Chinese neighbors, in both economic and military spheres.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was Vladimir Putin’s top guest at the Victory Parade on May 9, which was followed by the signing of $25-billion deal to boost Chinese lending to Russian firms and a number of other agreements.

The Chinese authorities have also invited Russian troops to march in a parade scheduled to take place in Beijing this September.