ISIS militants take Iraq army camp, at least 30 dead as bombs grip Baghdad

Jennifer Griffin reports from Washington, D.C.


Militants with the Islamic State group on Monday claimed control of a key military training camp in Anbar province -- which Iraqi officials called a "tactical retreat" -- as a spate of deadly bombings shook Baghdad, hitting mostly Shiite neighborhoods and leaving at least 30 dead.

Meanwhile, Rami Abdul Rahman of the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Fox News Monday that ISIS fighters hold as much as 50 percent of the Syrian border town of Kobani, which has been the focus of fierce fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces, backed up by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. The fall of Kobani would be a major victory for the Islamic State, and would raise new concerns that the Sunni militant group is making gains despite the airstrikes.

Rahman said that the militants are making moves from the east and southwest sides of the town and are trapping the Kurdish fighters in the center.

Other Fox News sources inside Kobani and in touch with the fight put the figure of ISIS-held territory lower, more in the range of 25 - 30 per cent.

But Fox News observed fighting deep inside the city Monday, along with U.S. airstrikes also hitting well into Kobani. This could indicate the terrorists were making substantial gains despite a big increase in the number of U.S. coalition bombing runs against the group.

At the very least, it appeared that ISIS militants have established themselves as a major force in Kobani, and one that will be difficult to dislodge.

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The extremists have carved out a vast stretch of territory from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad and imposed a harsh version of Islamic rule. The fighters have massacred hundreds of captured Iraqi and Syrian soldiers, terrorized religious minorities, and beheaded two American journalists and two British aid workers. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled into Turkey from Syria ahead of the militants.

Monday’s attacks in Iraq, came as Iraqi Shiites marked a major holiday for their sect with families crowding the streets in celebration. Iraqi troops, overstretched and overwhelmed by the Islamic State group's summer blitz that seized large swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq, continued to come under intense pressure Monday in the western Anbar province, where militants seized an Iraqi military training camp.

The camp, near the town of Hit that fell to the insurgents earlier this month, was overrun in the morning hours after clashes with Iraqi soldiers, who were abandoning the camp and withdrawing from the area, two Anbar officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Town residents confirmed the camp's fall, speaking to the AP also on condition of anonymity, fearing for their own safety.

The Islamic State group touted its conquest of the camp in a statement Monday. The statement couldn't immediately be verified but it was posted on websites commonly used by the group.

In Baghdad, which has largely been spared the violence seen in other parts of the country amid the Islamic State group's onslaught, bombings killed at least 30 people and wounded scores more on Monday, hitting three Shiite-majority neighborhoods. The attacks came as many Iraqi Shiites families took to the streets to celebrate the Eid al-Ghadeer holiday, which commemorates the Shiite Imam Ali, the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law and the sect's most sacred martyr.

In the eastern Habibiya district, police said 15 people died and 34 were wounded when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a police checkpoint. Earlier, a car bomb struck near a bus stop in northern Baghdad, killing 11 and wounding 22. And in the sprawling district of Sadr City, a bomb hidden in a vegetable cart went off, killing four and wounding 18.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but the Islamic State group says it has a foothold inside Baghdad and has claimed several large-scale bombings in the city in the past months, particularly in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City.

In Anbar, the capture of the Iraqi military camp came despite the U.S. airstrikes campaign. The U.S. military, which withdrew its forces from Iraq in late 2011 after more than eight years of war, first launched the airstrikes in early August to help Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces fight back and retake ground lost to the Islamic State group. The strikes in Iraq were followed in September by the first U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria, where the Islamic State group has captured much of the country's east, declaring a self-styled caliphate on the territory under its control straddling the Iraqi-Syria border.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on a visit to Iraq warned that the airstrikes will not be enough to defeat the militant group and stressed that the Iraqi security forces would have to do the "heavy work on the ground."

More than a dozen countries have entered the fight, providing air power, weapons or humanitarian assistance to more than a million Iraqi's people displaced by the militant offensive.

The British government joined the U.S.-led aerial campaign on Sept. 30. However, it has refused to join the air campaign in Syria, where the U.S. has been joined by a coalition of Arab partners. The use of foreign ground troops in the battle against the Islamic State group has been frowned upon, both by the Iraqi government and by those foreign governments providing assistance.

"'The coalition can only deliver effective support to the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces," said Britain's top diplomat during his visit to Baghdad on Monday. "The Iraqi people, the Iraqi security forces and Iraqi government will have to take the lead on the ground."

"We always understood that our campaign alone was not effective to be decisive in turning the tide against ISIL," Hammond added, using an alternate acronym for the militant group. "But it has halted the ISIL advance, it has forced ISIL to change its tactics and it is degrading their military capabilities and their economic strength, their ability to exploit oil revenues, for example."

The U.S. military said Sunday it conducted an airstrike southwest of Hit in Anbar, destroying a militant armored vehicle. It said another airstrike southeast of Hit targeted an armored personnel carrier. Airstrikes were also conducted near the Iraqi cities of Ramadi and Kirkuk, U.S. Central Command said.

Fox News' Greg Palkot and The Associated Press contributed to this report.