Islamic State fighters overrunning an Iraqi position near Samarra
The story comes from The Long War Journal.
Islamic State battles Iraqi forces near Samarra
The Islamic State and Iraqi Shiite militias have engaged in heavy fighting near the historic city of Samarra in central Iraq. Islamic State jihadists gained control of some areas west of Samarra after Iraqi forces withdrew, claimed a Shiite militia loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr.
The Islamic State’s provinces, or wilayats, of Salahadin and Shamal Baghdad [North Baghdad] have put out large photo releases detailing the fighting for several Iraqi positions west of Samarra. The images show the jihadist forces attacking the positions with heavy machine guns, rockets, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s), technicals (heavily armed pick up trucks), and small arms. The Islamic State also displays several checkpoints being overrun, with the jihadist group removing Iraqi and Shiite flags from the compounds.
Several photos show the dead bodies of dozens of Iraqi policemen and Shia militiamen. Many of these are too graphic to be published by The Long War Journal. Additional images highlight the “spoils” gained by the jihadist group, including small arms, RPGs, ammunition, and several vehicles. TheIslamic State also showcased its usage of several foreign suicide bombers, including jihadists from Tajikistan, Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain.
The fighting in Samarra has been confirmed by Iraqi officials to have been concentrated west of the city. An Iraqi official from Salahadin said that “Daesh [a derogatory Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] was able to sneak into those areas.” Additionally, the official called on the Iraqi Security Forces to send reinforcements to the government’s elements in the area. The suicide bombings west of the city are said to have happened on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29, however, fighting is ongoing.
Saraya al Salam (Peace Brigades), a Shiite militia led by Muqtada al Sadr and supported by Iran, reported today that its forces have liberated several areas that the Islamic State captured in recent days. In the same statement, the militia said that the Islamic State was able to capture these positions because of the “withdrawal of security forces.” Saraya al Salam also released videos showing its forces clearing terrain near the city and targeting the Islamic State in various areas west of the city.
The Samarra Operations Command also reported that the Iraqi Security Forces have killed 146 Islamic State fighters in the recent fighting, but this number cannot be confirmed by The Long War Journal. The Peace Brigades is the main Shiite militia tasked with protecting the city of Samarra, but other militias are also present, including Jund al Imam. In one photo released by the Islamic State, the jihadist group shows its forces targeting Jund al Imam near an Iraqi checkpoint.
The Islamic State seeks to control Samarra and towns and cites to its south in order to secure the northern Baghdad belt. Jihadist control of this area would make it difficult for Iraqi forces to resupply and reinforce military units to the north in Tikrit and Baiji. Additionally, the Islamic State seeks use this area to disrupt security in Baghdad.
The Iraqi government has allowed Shiite militias, including the Badr Brigade, Hezbollah Brigade, Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), and Sadr’s Promised Day Brigade, all of which are supported by Iran’s Qods Force, to reinforce beleaguered and demoralized Iraqi forces in and around Samarra. These militias have remained on the front line and have secured cities and towns, many of which are predominantly Sunni communities, along the road from Samarra to Baghdad.