Iraqi government troops stationed on the edge of Heet in beleaguered Anbar province have withdrawn to another base, leaving the city under full jihadist control, security sources said on Monday.
Islamic State (IS) fighters had assaulted and eventually seized the centre of the western city on the Euphrates river, but a sizeable contingent of government forces remained holed up in a nearby base.
“Iraqi forces evacuated Heet training camp last night (Sunday) on the orders of the military command,” a senior police official in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, told AFP.
“Our military leaders argued that instead of leaving those forces exposed to attacks by IS, they would be best used to shore up the defence of Asad air base,” he said.
Ahmed Hamid, who heads the Anbar provincial council’s security committee, said around 300 members of the security forces pulled out of the Heet training academy a few kilometres (miles) northwest of the city.
Asad is a large base northwest of Heet and one of the last still under government control in the restive western province. It is surrounded by desert and a tougher target for IS fighters.
Other security officials said military aircraft picked up senior officers from the Heet base, and the rest of the force drove in a convoy to Asad.
They set fire to trailers and other infrastructure before abandoning the base. Witnesses told AFP IS fighters took over what was left of the camp on Monday morning.
“Heet is now 100 percent under IS-control,” the police colonel said.
Government forces have suffered a string of setbacks in Anbar in recent weeks, and officials have warned that their grip on the capital Ramadi was increasingly tenuous.