The Iraqi government has reportedly launched a campaign with Iran-backed Shia militias to recapture the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State.
Up to 500 people are reported to have died after IS militants took control of the capital of Iraq’s Anbar province, which is just 70 miles (112km) west of Baghdad, over the weekend as the Iraqi military fled.
The Shia militias, known as Hashid Shaabi, have been critical to Iraqi military successes against the Islamic State in recent months, including the recapture of Tikrit. However, their sectarian nature and the violence and looting that has been reported by some members of the groups against Sunni Muslims has caused many of Iraq’s western backers, including the US and UK, to question their use.
Despite claims from the Iraqi government that they had taken the advantage in their war with the Islamic State, the fall of Ramadi demonstrates that any victories remain insecure, and the Islamic State remains a fierce opponent both in Iraq and Syria.
Elsewhere, the battle for the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria between militants from the Islamic State and troops loyal to Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad, has intensified.