An Iraqi tribal leader said Saturday that Islamic State militants are quickly gaining ground in Anabar province and predicted Iraqi army forced could “collapse within hours” if tribal forces withdraw.
Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, a Sunni Muslim leader of the Albu Nimr tribe, called for more U.S. intervention in the region, including ground troops and arming tribes directly, CNN reported Saturday.
U.S. officials have insisted that the terrorist group is on the run in Iraq in Syria, but Mr. al-Gaoud told reporters that that is not the case in Anabar.
“In Anabar, we’re losing ground, not gaining,” he said, according to CNN.
Islamic State fighters had been laying siege on the Anabar town of Jubbat al-Shamiya until U.S. led coalition airstrikes pushed the militants out on Friday.
But Mr. al-Gaoud told reporters that the fighters continued to shell the town and predicted a massacre if they were able to re-enter.
Anabar province is located just west of Baghdad and would be a strategic launching point for the militants to attack the Iraqi capital should their latest efforts be successful.
On Friday, Islamic State fighters clad in Iraqi military uniforms and suicide vests launched an attack on Ayn al-Assad Air Base, the second-largest U.S. air base in Iraq, causing chaos at the site of a U.S.-led training operation.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said 20 to 25 militants attacks the huge, nearly 25-square-mile base and “at least got to the outer base limits,” CNN reported.
According to Mr. al-Gaoud, at least 13 Iraqi soldiers were killed. U.S. troops were on base at the time of the attack but were several kilometers from the fighting.