Key Iraqi city of Ramadi falls to ISIS after security forces pull out

Islamic State fighters have taken control of the Iraqi city of Ramadi after that country's forces fled. The city is now the first major urban center seized by insurgents in Iraq since ISIS launched attacks last year. The Wall Street Journal's Nour Malas joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Baghdad.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For the latest on the events in Ramadi, we are joined now via Skype from Baghdad by Nour Malas of The Wall Street Journal.

    First of all, what is the significance of the fall of Ramadi?

  • NOUR MALAS, The Wall Street Journal:

    This puts another major Iraqi city in the hands of Islamic State.

    It already controls Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. And now Ramadi is the capital of Iraq's largest province.

    It's also a huge setback for the government campaign launched last month to reclaim Anbar province, which is really Iraq's Sunni heartland.

    It is a huge province — province bordering Baghdad. It borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria as well.

    We got urgent reports from police members fleeing the city today as Islamic State took over the last government base there, a operations command center.

    Some of the people we were talking to saying they were stepping over the bodies of their comrades as they fled, saying that though Baghdad had sent reinforcements, many of them ended up in the hands of Islamic State, armored vehicles, weapons caches, basically as they just stampeded the last government strongholds in Ramadi.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is there concern that it might take Iranian-backed militias to fight Islamic State?

  • NOUR MALAS:

    It's already taken that.

    The prime minister, as Ramadi was falling today, called in the mostly Shia paramilitary forces into Ramadi to help revert the loss.

    This was a major and controversial move that the government had been thinking about for many weeks. It's controversial because Ramadi, and Anbar province more broadly, is mostly Sunni.

    And there are concerns over calling in Shiite forces to take part in the fight. It's also a blow to the government, which has been trying to prove that it can carry out this fight with regular forces on its own.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Nour Malas of The Wall Street Journal joining us via Skype from Baghdad, thanks so much.

  • NOUR MALAS:

    Thank you.

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