By Miriam Raftery
Photo: Ramadi mosque in 2004, U.S. Marine Corps
April 19, 2015 (San Diego)--The battle between Islamic State extremists, or ISIS, is intensifying in the Middle East. Here are the latest developments.
Thousands of Iraqis fled the city of Ramadi over the weekend as ISIS forces advanced, raining bombs on the city. Ramadi is considered at risk of falling to ISIS, the Washington Post reports.
Senator John McCain has criticized the Pentagon for downplaying the importance of Ramadi.
General Martin Dempsey has called the battle to regain control of an oil refinery at Baiji a “more strategic target.” Early Sunday, Iraqi forces recaptured control of the Baiji refinery, Iraqi military commander Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi told Associated Press.
Two days earlier, Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and Shiite and Sunni help, gained control of the towns of al-Malha and al-Mazraah,
In the Kurdish city of Irbil, ISIS is being blamed for car bombings that killed three people.
Also in Iraq, an Iraqi provincial governor announced Friday that the highest ranking official from Saddam Hussein’s regime still at large is now believed to be dead, the New York Times reports. A body believed to Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri will be DNA-tested to confirm the identity; however there have been several false reports of Douri’s death in the past.
A suicide bomber believed to be with ISIS set off a blast outside a bank in the Afghanistan city of Jalabad, killing 33 people and injuring over 100 on Saturday, according to Reuters news.