Multiple reports confirm that ISIS has seized full control over the Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, west of Ramadi, threatening an air base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi troops.
As reported by Reuters, al-Baghdadi, about 85 km (50 miles) northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, had been besieged for months by the radical Sunni Islamist militants who captured vast swathes of Iraq’s north and west last year.
“Ninety percent of al-Baghdadi district has fallen under the control of the insurgents,” district manager Naji Arak told Reuters by phone.
According to intelligence sources and officials in the Jazeera and Badiya operations commands, al-Baghdadi was attacked from two directions by militants earlier in the day who then advanced on the town.
The city is only about 9 miles away from Ayn al-Asad base, where 300 Marines are stationed training Iraqi Forces in efforts to help them battle the Islamic State. A U.S. defense official informed CNN there are no plans to evacuate the base.
On Friday, eight suicide bombers who were trying to breach the air base’s perimeter from the direction of al-Baghdadi were killed by security forces inside Ayn al-Asad, according to two security officials in the Anbar provincial. A separate U.S. defense official confirmed the attack was directed against an Iraqi Army facility on the base and that the Iraqi forces beat the attack, killing all militants.
Officials have said the air base is taking sporadic indirect fire from militants using mortars and rocket launchers. A U.S. defense official also said the U.S. troops on the base do not feel as though they are pinned in and are not contemplating engaging ISIS on the ground.
The official also reiterated what has been stated publicly repeatedly by Pentagon officials: That U.S. forces retain the right to defend themselves if necessary, but at this point there have been no injuries to U.S. forces at the airbase and there is no change in status.