BAGHDAD (AFP) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist group launched a major attack Friday on the Iraqi city of Ramadi, capital of the troubled western province of Anbar, security officials said.
ISIS fighters pounded the city centre with mortar rounds, while clashes broke out all around Ramadi, one of the last urban areas partly under government control in Anbar.
"ISIS launched a surprise attack from four directions - north, west, east and south of Ramadi," a police first lieutenant in the city told AFP by phone.
He said the militant had also detonated car bombs targeting Iraqi security forces.
"Clashes are ongoing around the city. A series of mortar attacks have targeted areas inside the city, including provincial council buildings and a police post," the officer said.
He said it was too early to estimate the number of casualties from the fighting in and around Ramadi, which lies 100km west of Baghdad.
"The mortar fire has been continuous since midnight," police captain Qusay al-Dulaimi said.
Parts of the restive province - which borders Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and the Baghdad governorate - have been out of government control since January.
ISIS, which also controls large parts of Syria, spearheaded a major offensive in Iraq in June, seizing more land in Anbar.
A fresh spate of attacks in recent weeks has seen the insurgents extend their grip over the province, where only a handful of pockets remain under the control of Iraqi security forces backed by Shi'ite militias and Sunni tribal fighters.
Adhal al-Fahdawi, a member of the Anbar provincial council, said Friday that ISIS had managed to capture part of an eastern district called Mudhiq but pro-government forces had stopped their advance and were encircling the jihadists there.
"The security forces need support because we have not received any back-up from the army's air force or the coalition," Fahdawi said, referring to the US-led air campaign launched in August.
Police colonel Majid al-Fahdawi, the head of police in the Mudhiq area, was killed by sniper fire during the attack, a police major and a local tribal leader said.