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After losing Ramadi, Iraq calls on Shiite militias to fight Islamic State

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    After suffering their biggest defeat at the hands of the Islamic State group in nearly a year, the Iraqi government has called in thousands of Shia militia forces, and requested more U.S. airstrikes to beat back the Sunni militant group.

    The streets of Ramadi were empty today, and the Islamic State's black flag flew in the capital of Iraq's largest province, Anbar. Civilians who stayed even after fighting broke out last month were fleeing by the thousands, toward Baghdad. So were many Iraqi troops. This amateur video apparently shows military and civilian vehicles speeding out of town on Sunday. In their wake, stockpiles of weapons were left for the taking.

    To the north, crowds gathered in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, captured by ISIS last June. They cheered the fall of Ramadi and Anbar province.

  • MAN (through interpreter):

    The conquest of Anbar is just the beginning of the conquest of Baghdad, Najaf, and Karbala. Now the conquest has begun. Now the fighting has begun.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The loss of Ramadi may also delay plans for an Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul, which had been in the works after Tikrit was captured last month.

    In Washington, Pentagon and White House officials acknowledged the setback to American efforts to contain ISIS. But Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said reporters shouldn't read too much into the Islamic victory, and that Iraqi ground forces and coalition airpower is still working.

    Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling in South Korea, also said the campaign has degraded the militants' financial capacity and freedom of movement.

    JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: But that's not everywhere. And so it is possible to have the kind of attack we have seen in Ramadi. But I'm absolutely confident, in the days ahead, that will be reversed.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    On the battlefield, the immediate U.S. response was to step up airstrikes. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called up powerful Shiite militias to fight in largely Sunni Anbar province. The militias insisted they are ready to hold their ground.

    YOUSIF AL-KILABI, Spokesman for Security Affairs, Popular Mobilization Units (through interpreter): We will be a real backbone for the security forces and we will support the legitimacy in Iraq represented in the government and parliament.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Shiite Iran is a principle supporter of the militias, and it helped coordinate the successful fight to retake Tikrit. A senior Iranian official said in Beirut today his nation will help again.

    ALI AKBAR VELAYATI, Advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (through interpreter): Ramadi will have the same fate as Tikrit. It will be liberated from the grasp of the extremist terrorists and victory in the end will be for the Iraqi people and the Iraqi state.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    And Iran's defense minister flew to Baghdad for talks with the Iraqi army chief of staff, one day after the top U.S. regional commander, General Lloyd Austin, was there.

    Back in Ramadi, Islamic State-related Web sites showed video of heavy fighting from the weekend, and the group said it was executing apostates, a reference to captured Iraqi troops.

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