Militants of the so-called Islamic State have taken control of key cities in Iraq’s western province of Anbar and have begun to besiege one of the country’s largest military bases in a weeklong offensive that’s brought them within artillery range of Baghdad, the news site McClatchyDC reports.
It says that for the first time this year, Islamist insurgents are reported to have become a major presence in Abu Ghraib, the last Anbar town on the outskirts of the capital.
The website quotes a diplomat in Irbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region, saying an Islamic State presence in Abu Ghraib would put Baghdad International Airport within artillery range of the militants.
The airport is a key lifeline for Western embassies and holds a joint operations center staffed by U.S. military advisers.
Islamic State forces already influence stretches from Fallujah through Abu Ghraib to Yusufiya, Baghdad’s westernmost suburb.
The militant extremists have been terrorising the citizens of Iraq for months, brutally persecuting Christians and other religious minorities and forcing them to flee. In September, the United States and its allies began a campaign of airstrikes against IS targets.
At the end of a two-day meeting last week at the Vatican, apostolic nuncios in the region said the activity of some extremist groups “is a cause of grave concern, particularly the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ whose violence and abuses cannot be met with indifference.”
The nuncios added: “One cannot be silent, nor the international community remain inactive, in the face of the massacre of persons merely because of their religion or ethnicity, in the face of decapitations and crucifixions of human beings in public squares, in the face of the exodus of thousands of persons and the destruction of places of worship. The participants at the meeting reaffirmed that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor, always in accordance with international law.”
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