Islamic State militants took control of key buildings in Iraq’s provincial capital city of Ramadi Friday.
The terror group gained command over police headquarters, provincial government buildings and the Ramadi Great Mosque, according to CNN. The terror group used at least 10 suicide bombs and bulldozers to blast through walls, launching the offensive to control the city.
Jihadis hoisted the Islamic State flag over the main government compound and then set it on fire, reports The New York Times. The attack was reportedly launched just after a speech of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was released, calling for Muslims to wage violent jihad. (RELATED: Newly Released Tape Of ISIS Top Leader: ‘Islam Is The Religion Of War’)
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey downplayed the city’s importance last month, claiming wasn’t ”symbolic in any way” despite being the capital of Iraq’s largest province. Instead, he ratcheted up the importance of Beiji, the location of Iraq’s largest oil refinery.
But when jihadis gained control of sections of the complex, risking the Beiji refinery falling under Islamic State control, officials de-emphasized its strategic significance, pointing out the facility is nonoperational and requires repairs. The refinery remains contested despite more than 300 U.S.-led coalition airstrikes since last June.
U.S. officials touted the coalition’s success in routing the Islamic State from multiple locations in Iraq in April. But these successes are dimmed by the terror group’s gains in other areas of Iraq. In Syria, the Islamic State has actually gained a foothold since the coalition began its airstrike campaign last summer, according to The Daily Beast.
Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province in western Iraq, just 70 miles west of Baghdad. Over 100,000 civilians have fled the Islamic State assault on Anbar in the past month, reports the NYT.