Iraqi forces have retreated from Ramadi after the "Islamic State" launched a suicide bomb attacks to take control of the city. An adviser to the governor was concerned the city would soon be the site or "massacres."
Iraqi government forces retreated on Sunday from their strategic military base in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's largest province.
Security personnel, including army, police, counter-terrorism units, and local tribal forces, had been pushed back into the city's operations command center after the "Islamic State" militant group increased the frequency of their attacks on the government's last stronghold in the Anbar province.
"Anbar operations command has been cleared," Muhanned Haimour, spokesmen and adviser to the provincial governor, told the AFP news agency on Sunday.
The militant group's fresh wave of attacks included suicide bomb attacks, which began on Friday and carried on through the weekend, leaving 15 police officers dead on Sunday alone. Despite retaliatory airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition against the militants in the surrounding area, the terrorist group was able to overrun security forces.
Citizens caught in crossfire
The recent onslaught by the "Islamic State" has forced approximately 8,000 to flee the area, according to figures provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
However, many citizens were prevented from leaving their homes by "Islamic State" militants.
"We are extremely concerned about massacres that could be committed in the next hours," Haimour added.
The loss of Ramadi presents the largest setback for the Iraqi government forces since the "Islamic State" took over large swathes of land in June 2014.
Around 500 are said to have been killed since the fighting erupted on Thursday.
Anbar's provincial capital lies 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.
IS driven out of Palmyra
Meanwhile, near the ancient ruins of Palmyra, Syrian regime forces were able to push back IS fighters who had temporarily gained control of part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
"IS's attack was foiled,"said provincial governor Talal Barazi.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said nearly 300 people have been killed in four days of fighting.
ls/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)