BAGHDAD — In a further setback to the faltering American and Iraqi campaign to retake Anbar Province from the Islamic State, two Iraqi generals were killed in a suicide attack by the group Thursday morning outside Ramadi, the provincial capital.
Two explosives-rigged American-made Humvees, presumably seized on the battlefield from the Iraqi Army some time in the past year, exploded near the generals’ convoy, according to Gen. Noman al-Zawbawy, an Iraqi Army commander stationed in Anbar.
The Islamic State’s methodical seizing of large stores of ammunition, equipment and vehicles that the American government had provided to the Iraqi Army has given the jihadists a powerful edge on the battlefield over the past year.
The use of American Humvees, in particular, has allowed members of the Islamic State to appear as Iraqi soldiers, as they did Thursday, to get close enough to high-level officers to unleash suicide attacks to devastating effect. The attack on Thursday killed Maj. Gen. Abdulrahman Abu Ragheef, the deputy head of the Anbar Operations Command — who was in charge because the head of the command was wounded a few days ago — and Brig. Gen. Safeen Abdulmajid, the head of the Iraqi Army’s 10th Division.
The generals were killed in the morning and by the afternoon pictures of their coffins at a funeral procession in Baghdad’s Green Zone, attended by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, were shown on state television. It was a further reminder to the Iraqi public of the great costs of the campaign for Anbar Province, which has been continuing for months now with the support of American air power.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, an Iraqi military spokesman in Baghdad, said, “We will get revenge for them sooner or later. We have lost commanders before during the battle against ISIS, but we will never stop until we defeat them.”
In a statement released on social media, the Islamic State took responsibility for the attack, saying it was carried out by four suicide bombers.
Much of Anbar Province, which is predominantly Sunni, has been in the hands of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, for more than a year, and in May, the provincial capital of Ramadi fell entirely to the group. After its fall, American officials said soldiers and police officers had fled the city and raised anew questions about the willingness of the American-trained Iraqi Army to fight the Islamic State.
The Iraqi security forces, along with Shiite militias, some of which are under control of the government and others supported by Iran, have been able to defeat the Islamic State in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, and in eastern Diyala Province. But they have made little headway against the group in its two strongholds — Anbar, in western Iraq, and Nineveh Province, the capital of which is Mosul, to the north.
After the fall of Ramadi, Mr. Abadi announced the start of an operation to retake Anbar, but there has been little progress so far, partly because of the sheer number or roadside bombs that the Islamic State has planted, as well as booby-trapped buildings, Iraqi security officials say. American officials, in early July, laid out the contours of a battle plan to retake Ramadi and predicted that a major offensive would begin within weeks.
Falih Hassan and Omar al-Jawoshy contributed reporting
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(via NY Times)