By Jean-Marc Mojon ,AFP
BAGHDAD — Shiite militias converged on Ramadi Monday 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. The loss of the capital of Iraq’s largest province was Baghdad’s worst military setback since it started clawing back territory from the Islamic State group late last year. Days after a rare message from IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urging mass mobilization, the group came close to also seizing one of Syria’s most famed heritage sites, ancient Palmyra, but the army pinned it back. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had been reluctant to deploy Shiite militias to Anbar province for fear of alienating its overwhelmingly Sunni Arab population.
He favored developing locally recruited forces, a policy that had strong U.S. support. But militia commanders said on Monday that Ramadi’s fall had shown that the government could not do without the Popular Mobilization units (Hashed al-Shaabi). Badr militia chief Hadi al-Ameri said the province’s leaders should have taken up his offer of help sooner. The group’s Al Ghadeer television said Ameri ��holds the political representatives of Anbar responsible for the fall of Ramadi because they objected to the participation of Hashed al-Shaabi in the defense of their own people.�� Various militias announced they had units already in Anbar �X including around the cities of Fallujah and Habbaniyah �X ready to close in on Ramadi and engage the city’s new masters.
‘Massive’ Reinforcements A spokesman for Ketaeb Hezbollah, one of the leading Shiite paramilitary groups, said his organization had units ready to join the Ramadi front from three directions. ��Tomorrow, God willing, these reinforcements will continue towards Anbar and Ramadi and the start of operations to cleanse the areas recently captured by Daesh will be announced,�� Jaafar al-Husseini told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.