ISIS militants seized a military base 85 miles from Baghdad early Monday after the Iraqi Army made what they described as a tactical withdrawal, local media and Reuters reported. The Iraqi soldiers took their weapons and equipment before leaving the base, close to the city of Hit, in Anbar province, some reports said. Iraq’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to requests for comment from NBC News but Lt. Gen. Rashid Flaih, commander of operations in Anbar, told regional news outlet Al Arabiya that the retreat had been “tactical.” No other information was immediately available.
ISIS seized the city of Hit itself earlier this month, along with nearby Kubaisa. The fall of the military base came as the United Nations said up to 30,000 families - or 180,000 individuals – had fled the area because of the fighting and because of air strikes carried out by the Iraqi government and U.S.-led coalition forces. The fall of Hit is seen as a key step by ISIS in isolating government forces defending the Haditha dam, which controls the flow of the Euphrates to southern Iraq.
- Alastair Jamieson
Reuters contributed to this report.