ISIS seizes government compound after "vicious attack" in Ramadi

BAGHDAD -- Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants on Friday captured the main government compound in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's western Anbar province, after fierce clashes with security forces.

Ramadi's Mayor Dalaf al-Kubaisi says the militants raised the black flag of ISIS over the area after troops were forced to withdraw from the compound, which houses most of the city's government offices.

Iraqi security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by ISIS extremists in the eastern part of Ramadi in Anbar province, May 14, 2015.
REUTERS

He said the ISIS militants, who also seized other parts of the city, are now attacking the Anbar Operation Command, the military headquarters for the province.

Dalaf said at least 10 policemen were killed in the fighting and dozens of other security forces were wounded. He said ISIS militants killed several captured policemen and army officers in the city, where most civilians have fled.

U.S. troops saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year Iraq intervention in Anbar, and Ramadi was a major insurgent stronghold. ISIS captured the nearby city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in January 2014, months before its main sweep across northern and western Iraq.

The ISIS assault on the Ramadi government compound began with three nearly simultaneous suicide car bombings. Two Humvees previously seized from the Iraqi army were used in Friday's attack, al-Kubaisi said.

Dozens of families were forced to flee their homes in the area, said Athal al-Fahdawi, an Anbar councilman.

The head of Anbar's provincial council, Sabah Karhout, appealed to the central government in Baghdad to send reinforcements and urged the U.S.-led coalition to increase airstrikes against the militants in Ramadi.

"The city is undergoing vicious attack by Daesh and we are in dire need of any kind of assistance," Karhout said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

On Thursday, ISIS released an audio message purportedly from its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has not been seen or heard from in months.

The audio message posted on militant websites features a voice that sounds like al-Baghdadi's exhorting all Muslims to take up arms and fight on behalf of the group's self-styled caliphate. The speaker references the Saudi-led air campaign against Shiite rebels in Yemen, which began on March 26, and harshly criticizes the Saudi royal family.

CBS News' Khaled Wassef reports that in previous speeches, al-Baghdadi always called on Muslims to flock to the group's self-styled caliphate and take up arms against the apostates and the Shiites. Here, for the first time, he seems to be giving his followers the choice to either join ISIS in Syria and Iraq, or just carry out attacks at home.