Shiite forces move in on Iraqi city taken by Islamic State

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Shia Militias Gather Near Ramadi After ISIS Seizes Control Of Key City


A column of 3,000 Shiite militia fighters arrived at a military base near Ramadi on Monday as Baghdad moved to retake the western Iraqi city that has fallen to Islamic State militants in the biggest defeat for the government since mid-2014.

Setting the stage for renewed fighting over the city, Islamic State militants advanced in armored vehicles from Ramadi towards the base where the Shiite paramilitaries were massing for a counter-offensive, witnesses and a military officer said.

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Shiite forces move in on Iraqi city taken by Islamic State
An Iraqi government forces member sits in the back of a vehicle in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to patrol the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces pose for a picture at a checkpoint in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi government forces member keeps position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces guard the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep position in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces walk next to a trench in the Jurf al-Sakher area, some 50 kilometres south of Baghdad, to protect the area from further Islamic State (IS) group advancement, on May 24, 2015. Iraqi forces retook territory from IS group east of Ramadi on May 23, 2015, in their first counterattack since the jihadists' capture of the Anbar provincial capital a week earlier. (Photo credit Haidar Hamdani, AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, on April 19, 2015. More than 90,000 people have fled fighting between pro-government forces and the Islamic State jihadist group in the Ramadi area of Iraq's Anbar province, the United Nations said. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi families, who fled the city of Ramadi after it was seized by Islamic State (IS) group militants, talk to journalists at a camp housing displaced families on May 18, 2015 in Bzeibez, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province. Shiite militias converged on Ramadi in a bid to recapture it from jihadists who dealt the Iraqi government a stinging blow by overrunning the city in a deadly three-day blitz. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Displaced Sunni Iraqis, who fled the violence in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad, on April 19, 2015. More than 90,000 people have fled fighting between pro-government forces and the Islamic State jihadist group in the Ramadi area of Iraq's Anbar province, the United Nations said. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi boy, whose family fled the city of Ramadi after it was seized by Islamic State (IS) group militants, poses inside a tent at a camp housing displaced families on May 18, 2015 in Bzeibez, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province. Shiite militias converged on Ramadi in a bid to recapture it from jihadists who dealt the Iraqi government a stinging blow by overrunning the city in a deadly three-day blitz. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Displaced Iraqis from Ramadi cross the Bzebiz bridge after spending the night walking towards Baghdad, as they flee their hometown, 65 km west of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, May 16, 2015. Islamic State militants seized the center of Ramadi in western Iraq and raised their black flag over the government compound, local officials said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
Civilians flee their hometown of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Monday, May 18, 2015. Islamic State militants searched door-to-door for policemen and pro-government fighters and threw bodies in the Euphrates River in a bloody purge Monday after capturing the strategic city of Ramadi, their biggest victory since overrunning much of northern and western Iraq last year. (AP Photo)
Iraqi security forces stand guard as residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, wait to cross Bzeibez bridge, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces. (Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
Residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, walk towards Bzeibez bridge, on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces. (Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi children, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, are carried by trailer after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi children, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, are carried by trailer as an Iraqi army soldier passes water them after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi kid cries as he and thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi woman fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, reacts as she arrives in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 19: Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, carry their belongings with a trailer after they arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis, fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, cross bridge over Euphrates River to arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 19, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Visam Avci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians flee their hometown of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Monday, May 18, 2015. Islamic State militants searched door-to-door for policemen and pro-government fighters and threw bodies in the Euphrates River in a bloody purge Monday after capturing the strategic city of Ramadi, their biggest victory since overrunning much of northern and western Iraq last year. (AP Photo)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - APRIL 17: Iraqi Army members take security measures as thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Thousands of Iraqis fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, arrive in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An Iraqi woman fleeing the Iraqi city of Ramadi seized by Daesh militants, reacts as she arrives in Baghdad, Iraq on April 17, 2015. Thousands of Iraqis have started to migrate from Ramadi city, where the U.S.-led coalition has intensified its airstrikes against Daesh positions, to Baghdad, said a security official. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Residents from the city of Ramadi, who fled their homes on May 16, 2015 as Islamic State (IS) group militants tightened their siege on the last government positions in the capital of Anbar province, a day after they seized the city's government headquarters, walk towards Bzeibez bridge on the southwestern frontier of Baghdad with Anbar province, after IS group jihadists took control of all the other routes connecting the province with the Iraqi capital. Taking control of Ramadi would constitute the group's most important victory this year in Iraq, and would give the jihadists control of the capitals of two of its largest provinces.(Photo credit Sabah Arar, AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Iraqi interior ministry's anti-terrorism forces flashes the V-sign as he stands guard on a vehicle outside the Habaniyah military base, near Anbar province's capital Ramadi, on May 8, 2015. More than 1,000 Sunni fighters from Anbar joined Iraq's Popular Mobilisation force on May 8, 2015 as part of government efforts to make the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group a cross-sectarian drive. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters who supports the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group, hold a black Islamist flag allegedly belonging to IS militants in the village of Fadhiliyah, which pro-government forces retook from IS control the previous month, on the road leading to Fallujah, in Iraq's flashpoint Anbar province, southwest of Baghdad, on February 24, 2015. The government forces lost control of parts of Anbar's provincial capital Ramadi and all of Fallujah at the beginning of 2015 to anti-government fighters. (Photo credit Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP/Getty Images)
An Islamic State car bomb explodes at the gate of a government building near the provincial governor's compound in Ramadi, Iraq, on Saturday, May 16, 2015, during heavy fighting that saw most of the city fall to the militants. (Stringer/McClatchy DC/TNS via Getty Images)
Displaced civilians from Ramadi receive humanitarian aid from the United Nations in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
Displaced civilians from Ramadi receive humanitarian aid from the United Nations in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
A women who fled Ramadi holds a child in a camp in the town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, May 22, 2015. The United Nations World Food Program said it is rushing food assistance into Anbar to help tens of thousands of residents who have fled Ramadi after it was taken by Islamic State militant group. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
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At the same time, U.S.-led warplanes stepped up raids against the Islamists, conducting 19 strikes near Ramadi over the past 72 hours at the request of the Iraqi security forces, a coalition spokesman said.

The Shiite militia, known as Hashid Shaabi or Popular Mobilisation, was ordered to mobilize after the city, the capital of Anbar province, was overrun on Sunday.

The militiamen give the government far more capability to launch a counterattack, but their arrival could add to sectarian animosity in one of the most violent parts of Iraq.

"Hashid Shaabi forces reached the Habbaniya base and are now on standby," said the head of the Anbar provincial council, Sabah Karhout. They were fully equipped and highly capable, the council said.

An eyewitness described a long line of armored vehicles and trucks mounted with machine guns and rockets, flying the yellow flags of Kataib Hezbollah, one of the militia factions, heading towards the base about 30 km (20 miles) from Ramadi.

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Shiite forces move in on Iraqi city taken by Islamic State
TOPSHOT - Iraqi girls hold makeshift white flags as they flee with their families a military operation by Iraqi security personnel aimed at retaking areas from Islamic State group jihadists, in the desert west of the city of Samarra on March 3, 2016. Counter-terrorism forces, soldiers, police and allied paramilitaries are taking part in an operation launched on March 1, which is backed by artillery and both Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft, aimed at retaking areas north of Baghdad, according to the Joint Operations Command. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi soldiers patrol the site of an army position where an attack was carried out by the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in the Abu Ghraib area west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on February 29, 2016. The jihadists attacked the position early in the morning and held it until government reinforcements arrived and took it back later in the day, the officials said. The Abu Ghraib violence killed at least eight people, including both members of the security forces and allied paramilitaries, and wounded at least 22, while IS members were also killed, officials said. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi soldiers patrol a suburb close to the area of Jweibah, east of the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province on February 4, 2016. Iraqi forces declared victory in December in the battle for Ramadi after wresting back control of the city's central government complex from the Islamic State (IS) group. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A member of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service sits in a vehicle after being wounded in fighting the Islamic State group's jihadists in the al-Sajariyah area, east of the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, 120 kilometers west of Baghdad, on February 3, 2016. Iraqi forces declared victory in December in the Ramadi battle after wresting back control of the city's central government complex from the Islamic State group. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga stands guard near the Mosul Dam on the Tigris River, around 50 kilometres north of the city of Mosul, on February 1, 2016. The United States is monitoring Iraq's largest dam for signs of further deterioration that could point to an impending catastrophic collapse, US army officers said on January 28, 2016. The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group seized the Mosul Dam briefly in 2014, leading to a lapse in maintenance that weakened an already flawed structure, and Baghdad is seeking a company to make repairs. / AFP / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi pro-government forces fire a rocket during clashes with Islamic State (IS) group fighters, on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province on January 31, 2016. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi Sunni fighter from the Popular Mobilisation units, walks as he monitors the frontline near the town of Al-Fatha north of the Salaheddin province during an operation to protect the nearby Ajeel and Alas oil fields. The oil fields in the area are strategic as Islamic State (IS) fighters are eying them as potential revenue sources. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Iraqi forces secure an area in Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, on January 10, 2016, after retaking the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Iraqi forces pushed out of central Ramadi on January 1, 2016 to extend their grip on the city, sweeping neighbourhoods for pockets of jihadists to flush out and trapped civilians to evacuate. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service flashes the 'V' for victory sign as smoke from a controlled explosion billows in the background on December 29, 2015 on the outskirts of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. Iraq declared the city of Ramadi liberated from the Islamic State group Monday and raised the national flag over its government complex after clinching a landmark victory against the jihadists. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi Shiite fighter from the Popular Mobilisation units looks on in the town of Saqlawiya on the outskirts of Fallujah, 50kms west of Baghdad, on July 26, 2015. Iraqi government forces gained control over Al-Anbar University from Islamic State (IS) Group, near Ramadi, a key position to reclaim the provincial capital, according to officials. AFP PHOTO/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the allied Iraqi forces consisting of the Iraqi army and fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units, load heavy artillery on the front line during battles with Islamic State (IS) group jihadists on the road leading to Saqlawiya, north of Fallujah, in Iraq's Anbar province on August 4, 2015. Anbar, Iraq's largest province, has been rocked by violence since the beginning of 2014, months before the IS jihadist group launched a massive nationwide offensive that saw it conquer swathes of the country. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR MOHAMMED ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi pro-government fighters from the mianly-Shiite Popular Mobilisation units inspect an office in a government building which was used as a base by the radical Islamic State (IS) group in the town of Saqlawiya on the outskirts of Fallujah, 50kms west of Baghdad, on July 26, 2015. Iraqi government forces gained control over Al-Anbar University from jihadists, near Ramadi, a key position to reclaim the provincial capital, according to officials. AFP PHOTO/ AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - JULY 23: Iraqi military train at the Counter Terrorism Service training location, as observed by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 23, 2015. Carter is on a weeklong tour of the Middle East focused on reassuring allies about Iran and assessing progress in the coalition campaign against the Islamic State group militants in Syria and Iraq. (Photo by Carolyn Kaster - Pool/Getty Images)
Security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during sand storm in the eastern part of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 14, 2015. Islamic State extremists tend to take advantage of bad weather when they attack Iraqi security forces positions, an Iraqi officer said. (AP Photo)
Security forces defend their headquarters against attacks by Islamic State extremists during sand storm in the eastern part of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 14, 2015. Islamic State extremists tend to take advantage of bad weather when they attack Iraqi security forces positions, an Iraqi officer said. (AP Photo)
AP10ThingsToSee - A plume of smoke rises after an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State group positions in an eastern neighborhood of Ramadi, Iraq, the capital of Anbar province, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad. (AP Photo)
Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units hold a the emblem of the Islamic State (IS) group as they gather outside the provincial council building in Tikrit, on April 1, 2015, a day after the prime minister declared victory in the weeks-long battle to retake the city from IS jihadists. Iraqi forces battled the last jihadists the northern city on April 1, 2015 to seal a victory the government described as a milestone in efforts to rid the country of the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units gather next to a mural depicting the emblem of the Islamic State (IS) group outside one of the presidential palaces in Tikrit, on April 1, 2015, a day after the prime minister declared victory in the weeks-long battle to retake the city from the IS group. Iraqi forces battled the last jihadists the northern city on April 1, 2015 to seal a victory the government described as a milestone in efforts to rid the country of the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces fire a locally made rocket from a position on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015, during a military operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Shiite fighter from the Popular Mobilisation units celebrates outside the provincial council building in Tikrit, on April 1, 2015, a day after the prime minister declared victory in the weeks-long battle to retake the city from the Islamic State (IS) group. Iraqi forces battled the last jihadists the northern city on April 1, 2015 to seal a victory the government described as a milestone in efforts to rid the country of the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units pose in front of a mural depicting the emblem of the Islamic State (IS) group outside one of the presidential palaces in Tikrit, on April 1, 2015, a day after the prime minister declared victory in the weeks-long battle to retake the city from the IS group. Iraqi forces battled the last jihadists the northern city on April 1, 2015 to seal a victory the government described as a milestone in efforts to rid the country of the Islamic State group. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi policemen stand next to Islamic State (IS) group ammunition in the Al-Alam town, northeast of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, on March 17, 2015 after recapturing the town from IS fighters earlier in the month. Loyalists had already failed three times to retake the nearby city of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, which was captured by IS last summer. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi Sunni woman holds an Iraqi flag upon returning back to the Al-Alam town, northeast of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, on March 17, 2015 after the town was recaptured by Sunni and Shiite fighters from the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia, from Islamic State (IS) fighters earlier in the month. Loyalists had already failed three times to retake the nearby city of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, which was captured by IS last summer. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
The Iraqi Shiite militant group called Imam Ali Brigades review the battle plan at the front line with the Islamic State group in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, March 14, 2015. Iraqi military officials have said they expect to reach the center of Tikrit within two to three days. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
A woman who fled from Tikrit, Iraq, because she feared Islamic State militants sits by an over while baking bread at a refugee camp outside Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
A volunteer with a Shiite militant group called Imam Ali Brigades holds his weapon at an overwatch position as the sun sets after clashes at the front line with Islamic State group extremists in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Smoke rises after clashes between Iraqi security forces and allied Shiite militiamen and Islamic State group extremists in the Qadisiyya neighborhood in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
In this Monday, April 20, 2015 photo, a Sunni fighter stands guard on the frontline with the Islamic State group outside the city of Makhmour, northern Iraq while holding a PKC machine gun. When Islamic State militants swept across northern Iraq last summer the Sunni al-Lehib tribe welcomed them as revolutionaries fighting the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, but less than a year later the tribe is bitterly split between those who joined the extremist group and those resisting its brutal rule.(AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Iraqi fighters chant slogans against extremists at the front line during a battle against Islamic State militants in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, March 16, 2015. The offensive to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit began March 2. The city is one of the largest held by the Islamic State militants on the road connected Baghdad and Mosul. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Children who fled from Tikrit, Iraq, because their families feared Islamic State militants spend time at a refugee camp outside Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, March 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
FILE - In this Saturday, March 14, 2015 file combo of six photos shows members of Iraqi Shiite militia called the Imam Ali Brigades, posing for portraits during a break in fighting with Islamic State group fighters near the front line in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)
A member of Peace Brigades, a Shiite militia group loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, heading to Tikrit, where Iraqi troops backed by Shiite fighters and Iranian advisers are fighting extremists, shows a v-sign as another waves a representation of the Iraqi flag, while driving off Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 15, 2015. Dozens of fighters with the militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric left Iraq's capital Sunday to take part in an offensive to capture Tikrit from the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
An Iraqi soldier watches the movements of the enemy at the front line in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 13, 2015. Iraqi forces entered Tikrit for the first time on Wednesday from the north and south. On Friday, they fought fierce battles to secure the northern Tikrit neighborhood of Qadisiyya and lobbed mortars and rockets into the city center, still in the hands of IS. Iraqi military officials have said they expect to reach the center of Tikrit within two to three days. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Members of Peace Brigades, a Shiite militia group loyal to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, heading to Tikrit, where Iraqi troops backed by Shiite fighters and Iranian advisers are fighting extremists, prepare to leave Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 15, 2015. Dozens of fighters with the militia loyal to the radical Shiite cleric left Iraq's capital Sunday to take part in an offensive to capture Tikrit from the Islamic State group. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)
Smoke rises after clashes at Qadisiyah neighborhood in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March 12, 2015. Iraqi troops clashed along two fronts with Islamic State militants in Tikrit on Thursday as rockets and mortars echoed across Saddam Hussein's hometown a day after soldiers and allied Shiite militiamen swept into this Sunni city north of Baghdad. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Iraqi Army armored vehicles prepare to attack Islamic State extremists in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March 12, 2015. Rockets and mortars echoed across Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Thursday as Iraqi security forces clashed with Islamic State militants a day after sweeping into the Sunni city north of Baghdad. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Members of a Shiite group, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, flash V signs for victory during a funeral procession of six of their comrades killed in Tikrit fighting Islamic State militants, in Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, March 5, 2015. Iranian-backed Shiite militias and Sunni tribes have joined Iraq's military in a major operation to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State group, while the U.S. led coalition has remained on the sidelines. (AP Photo/Jaber al-Helo)
An Iraqi refugee girl from Mosul stands outside her family's tent at Khazir refugee camp outside Irbil, 217 miles (350 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, June 12, 2014. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the al-Qaida breakaway group, on Monday and Tuesday took over much of Mosul in Iraq and then swept into the city of Tikrit further south. An estimated half a million residents fled Mosul, the economically important city. (AP Photo)
Iraqi fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units carry the coffin of their comrade Mostafa Hassan Shakir, a student from the University of Kufa who died in fighting against Islamic State (IS) fighters in the northern city of Tikrit, during his funeral on March 17, 2015 in the Shiite shrine city of Najaf. Shakir is the first student from the university of Kufa to die in the offensive to retake Tirkit, the capital of Salaheddin province, from IS group which began on March 2, 2015. Iraqi forces have tried and failed three times before to retake the city, which was the hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein. AFP PHOTO / HAIDAR HAMDANI (Photo credit should read HAIDAR HAMDANI/AFP/Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - MARCH 11: An elderly women hugs a soldier after the clashes in their neighborhood between Iraqi army forces, supported by Shiite militias, and Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) finished and they safely reach their homes, in Tikrit, Iraq on March 11, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Spokesmen for militia groups said reconnaissance and planning were underway for the upcoming "battle of Anbar", the vast Euphrates River valley province where the U.S. military fought the biggest battles of its 11-year occupation.

Ramadi is dominated by Sunni Muslims. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi signed off on the deployment of Shiite militias to attempt to seize back the area, a move he had previously resisted for fear of provoking a sectarian backlash.

About 500 people have been killed in the fighting for Ramadi in recent days and up to 8,000 have fled, a spokesman for the provincial governor said.

Islamic State said it had seized tanks and killed "dozens of apostates", its description for members of the Iraqi security forces. An eyewitness in Ramadi said bodies of policemen and soldiers lay in almost every street, with burnt-out military vehicles nearby.

HARSH RETURN TO REALITY

The city's fall marked a major setback for the forces ranged against Islamic State: the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi security forces, which have been propped up by Iranian-backed Shiite militias

It was also a harsh return to reality for Washington, which at the weekend had mounted a special forces raid in Syria in which it said it killed an Islamic State leader in charge of the group's black market oil and gas sales, and captured his wife.

The Iraqi government and Shiite paramilitaries recaptured Saddam Hussein's Tigris river home city of Tikrit from Islamic State six weeks ago, the biggest advance since the militants swept through northern Iraq last year. But government forces have had less success in the valley of Iraq's other great river, the Euphrates, west of Baghdad.

An army major who fought his way out of Ramadi said government forces in the area had been ordered to regroup, but soldiers were exhausted and morale was at rock bottom.

To some analysts, the fall of Ramadi shows the limits of the U.S. strategy of attacking from the air but leaving ground fighting to Iraq's military and its Iran-backed militia allies.

"The Americans said that they have carried out air strikes against ISIS but then the group went in and defeated the local forces," said Hassan Hassan, author of a book on Islamic State. "So they really need to come up with a whole new strategy... and really take the fight to them."

Qassim al Fahdawi, an Iraqi government minister, said Iraqi forces lacked the professionalism, training and discipline to withstand a smaller number of skilled Islamic State fighters.

While the government in Baghdad has urged Sunni tribes in Anbar to accept help from Shi'ite militia against Islamic State, many Sunnis view the Shi'ite militiamen as a worse threat than the jihadists. Islamic State portrays itself as a defender of Sunnis against sectarian attacks by the Iran-backed fighters.

One Anbar Sunni tribal leader now in exile in the Kurdish regional capital Erbil said the deployment of the Hashid Shaabi into the Sunni stronghold showed that Baghdad's goal was to crush Sunnis.

"They wanted to destroy this citadel and break its walls so that the Hashid could enter in order to spread Shiite," Sheikh Ali Hamad said.

But some Anbar tribes are so fearful of Islamic State's harsh rule that they may be open to a role even for the hated Shiite militias. Another tribal leader, Sheikh Abu Majid al-Zoyan, said he was suspicious of the militias, but "at this stage, we welcome any force that will come and liberate us from the chokehold" of Islamic State.

KERRY CONFIDENT

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed confidence that the takeover of Ramadi would be reversed in the coming weeks.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior Iranian official, said Tehran was ready to help confront Islamic State, and he was certain the city would be "liberated".

Islamic State, which emerged as an offshoot of al Qaeda, controls large parts of Iraq and Syria in a self-proclaimed caliphate where it has carried out mass killings of members of religious minorities and beheaded hostages.

A senior Israeli intelligence official said that before coalition forces began operations against the group, its revenues were about $65 million a month, more than 90 percent of which came from oil and the rest from taxes and ransom money.

Since then, monthly revenues had fallen to about $20 million, of which about 70 percent is from oil and the rest from taxes and ransom.

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