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Shiite militias converge to take back Ramadi

Iraq's prime minister has called on a collective of Shiite paramilitaries to help rescue Ramadi from the jihadists. The fall of the city has dealt a major blow to the US-led coalition against "Islamic State."

Hashid Shaabi, a group of Iraqi Shiite paramilitaries, prepared to deploy to the embattled Iraqi city of Ramadi on Monday, on the orders of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Al-Abadi's government saw

its biggest defeat in 2015

last week, as Ramadi in the Western province of Anbar became the first major city to fall to "Islamic State" (IS) militants since last summer.

"Now that the Hashid has received the order to march forward, they will definitely take part," Ali al-Sarai, a member of the Hashid Shaabi's media wing, said to Reuters news agency, adding that he could not give more details due to security concerns.

Al-Abadi had hesitated issuing the order, as Ramadi is Sunni-dominated and he feared provoking a sectarian backlash.

A spokesman for Anbar province's governor said Monday that at least 500 people had been killed and some 6,000 to 8,000 had fled the violence in the city in recent days.

Major loss for anti-IS coalition

Working alongside Shiite paramilitaries last month, the Iraqi government was able

to wrest the city of Tikrit from the IS terrorists

, but the country's second largest city, Mosul, remains firmly in IS hands.

IS claimed it had executed "dozens of apostates," as it calls Iraqi troops, and seized tanks as it took over control of Ramadi after taking control of a military base which had been the last district of the city holding out against the jihadists.

Despite the setback,

Washington appeared hopeful

after a successful operation against IS in Syria over the weekend resulted in the death of their leader in charge of black market oil sales and the capture of the man's wife. The US has been leading a coalition aerial campaign against the jihadists since shortly after they grabbed vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria last summer.

Speaking at a news conference while on a trip to Seoul, South Korea, US Secretary of State John Kerry said "I am convinced that as the forces are redeployed, and as the days flow in the weeks ahead, that's going to change, as overall [they] have been driven back... I am absolutely confident in the days ahead that will be reversed."

es/kms (AP, Reuters)

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