“The city’s fallen. They’ve taken it,” Maj. Omar Khamis al-Dahl, a senior officer in the Ramadi police, said by telephone.
The governor of Anbar province, Sohaib Alrawi, denied that Ramadi had fallen, saying in a tweet that the situation in the city was “dire” but that battles continued.
Dozens of soldiers fled the city overnight Thursday during the initial stages of the Islamic State attack, which involved heavy artillery and multiple car bombings, said Dahl. Over 60 police officers have been killed in the fighting, and hundreds of police and soldiers were surrounded in a military compound in the center of the city, he said.
“We have not received reinforcements from the government, and there will be a massacre of these people like there was in Speicher,” said Dahl. He referred to a former U.S. military base near Tikrit where an estimated 1,700 Iraqi soldiers were captured and killed en masse by the Islamic State last summer.
The attack on Ramadi comes more than a month after pro-government forces backed by U.S. airstrikes drove Islamic State militants out of the city of Tikrit, an advance that officials in Baghdad touted as a major victory. The government has hoped to push northward to drive Islamic State forces out of Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq and a stronghold of the militants since they captured it in June 2014.