Apparently far from being pushed back, the Islamic State’s fighters are on the march. A new report has Islamic State militants seizing control of numerous cities in Iraq’s Anbar province, moving to within shelling range of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.
According to the newest reports from McClatchy, Islamic State – also known as Daash, ISIS, or ISIL – militants have become a considerable force within Abu Ghraib, an Anbar town on the outskirts of Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.
“Daash is openly operating inside Abu Ghraib,” one Iraqi soldier told McClatchy, adding, “I was at the 10th Division base there two days ago, and the soldiers cannot leave or patrol.”
“Daash controls the streets,” the soldier said finally.
ISIS’ control of Abu Ghraib is particularly troubling for the region, according to one diplomat, as that would put Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport within artillery range for the militants.
ISIS fighters have also taken the battle to Kurdish regions, attacking near the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane. McClatchy notes that Turkey, a major power in the region, looks unlikely to intervene, as the Turkish government has not yet responded to Kurdish requests for assistance.
Other reports have Islamic State militants capturing an entire regiment of Iraqi tanks. Those reports are unclear on just how many tanks that represents, but it could be in excess of 20.
Currently, ISIS influence stretches from Fallujah to Yusufiya, the westernmost suburb of Baghdad. The group has also captured hundreds of Iraqi National Guard members, with recent reports indicating that an assault on Albu Aytha, north of Ramadi, resulted in the capture of between 300 and 600 Iraqi soldiers.
The new developments come as the United States and a coalition of allies are still deciding how to approach the problem of the Islamic State. U.S. forces have been conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in both Iraq and Syria, but some critics maintain that those strikes have been ineffective in slowing ISIS’ advances.
ISIS appears undeterred by Western military actions against the organization. The Islamic State recently released yet another video in which a militant beheaded a western citizen. The most recent video showed the death of Alan Henning, who was delivering aid to Syria last December when he was apparently kidnapped by ISIS members.
The videos, released somewhat regularly over the last several weeks, are an act of defiance from the militant group, which has repeatedly blamed the U.S. and its allies for the deaths of the civilians killed in the tapes. The videos tend to end with a visual of the dead body of the most recent executed hostage and a shot of another hostage, the next to be executed.
[Lead image via Arab Spring News.]