Sunnis flee the violence in the city of Ramadi, Iraq
Sunnis flee the violence in the city of Ramadi, IraqReuters

The Pentagon said Sunday night that the situation in Ramadi, which Islamic State (ISIS) said it seized from Iraqi forces, remains "fluid and contested" and it is following reports of continued violence in the strategic city.

"We're continuing to monitor reports of tough fighting in Ramadi and the situation remains fluid and contested," Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann told AFP in a statement.

"It is too early to make definitive statements about the situation on the ground there at this time," she added.

ISIS said earlier Sunday it had taken full control of the Iraqi city after a bloody assault, in a statement posted on jihadist Internet forums.

After the claim, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered government forces to "hold their positions" in Ramadi, capital of Iraq's largest province of Anbar.

He called on troops, tribesmen and other elite forces to push the Islamic State terrorists out of the city.

Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith told AFP said the flashpoint city has long been fought over and that the Islamic State group appeared to be gaining ground in the latest bout of fighting.

"Ramadi has been contested since last summer and ISIL now has the advantage. We have always known the fight would be long and difficult, particularly in Anbar," Smith told the news agency, using another acronym for the jihadist group.

"We continue to support with air power and advice to the Iraqi forces," Smith added.

The United States warned two months ago that Ramadi could fall, said Smith, adding that losing the city now does not mean it will remain in ISIS’ hands.

"The loss of Ramadi does not mean the tide of the campaign has turned, and we have long said that there would be ebbs and flows on the battlefield," she said, adding that taking the town would merely be a "propaganda boost" for the group.

"If lost, that just means the coalition will have to support Iraqi forces to take it back later."

ISIS has threatened to take control of Ramadi for months, and the breakthrough came after a wide offensive on multiple fronts in the province, including an assault using several suicide car bombs in Ramadi last Thursday.