On Sunday morning, ISIS mobilized a considerable fighting force on the outskirts of Ar-Rutbah, in Anbar province, and began attacking the city. By noon, jihadist fighters stormed and seized several Iraqi checkpoints, advancing inside the city itself.
— Chris Tomson (@TheDaneChris) October 23, 2016
With over 30,000 Iraqi Army soldiers tied up for the ongoing Mosul campaign, Ar-Rutbah was left manned by only a few hundred border guards and pro-government Sunni tribal fighters, leaving it an easy target for the Islamic State to overrun.
By Sunday evening, ISIS militants captured the Ar-Rutbah police headquarters and now control at least 80% of the city, even besieging beleaguered government troops inside a few building blocks. Dozens have reportedly been executed and the city could easily fall entirely in the hours to come.
Ar-Rutbah was otherwise liberated by the Iraqi Army’s 7th Division earlier this year, in May 2016, during a major campaign which saw Iraqi government forces retake the entire border with Jordan and the majority of Anbar province.
Meanwhile, an ISIS insurgency in the city of Kirkuk is also serving to pivot attention and military resources from the offensive to liberate Mosul.