The Islamic State carried out a coordinated suicide bomber attack against the air base in western Iraq housing 320 US Marines. The Pentagon confirmed the extremist group has taken control of al-Baghdadi, which is just eight kilometers away from the base.
The Friday attack was conducted by approximately 25 Islamic State fighters, the Pentagon told Reuters, and several suicide bombers were involved. Some of them were reportedly able to detonate their vests, though the exact number is unclear. Some of the militants were able to sneak into the base wearing Iraqi uniforms, and they were killed by Iraqi troops when fighting broke out.
There are approximately 320 Marines at the base training Iraqi security forces, though the Pentagon said Marines were not involved in the fighting. No US or Iraqi casualties have been reported.
Al-Baghdadi, located in Iraq’s Anbar province, had been under siege by radical Sunni Islamist militants for months and much of the Anbar province was captured by the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) during its rapid advance into northern and western Iraq last summer.
Militants attacked al-Baghdadi from two directions and then advanced into the town on Thursday, according to intelligence sources and Iraqi army officials, Reuters reported. The death toll from the fighting has not been revealed.
Officials also said that a group of ISIS militants tried to break into the heavily guarded Ain al-Asad air base on Thursday but were repelled by the Iraqi army, which was backed by coalition fighter planes.
Eight militants were killed in the attack on the base, US and Iraqi officials said.
Elisa Smith, a US Navy commander and Pentagon spokeswoman, also confirmed that there had been heavy fighting in al-Baghdadi and added that there had been “ineffective indirect fire in the vicinity of the base.”
“We continue to support efforts by Iraqi Security Forces, working in conjunction with tribal fighters, directed against ISIL in the province,” the spokeswoman told Fox News Thursday.
Elsewhere in the campaign, the US-led coalition continues to launch airstrikes against ISIS, with outraged Jordan now taking on a greater role after one of its pilots was burned to death by militants, who then posted a video of his execution online.