|Show of strength: ISIS flags line the streets of Ramadi as a procession of |
militants - riding on Toyota Land Cruisers - parade through the city
ISIS militants have held a twisted victory parade after taking the key city of Ramadi in an orgy of violence and beheadings - and the extremists could march on the Iraqi capital Baghdad within the next month.
Mutilated bodies scatter the streets of the 'Gateway of Baghdad', where Islamic State slaughtered around 500 and forced nearly 25,000 to flee their homes over the last few days.
Now ISIS has released images of militants celebrating, children wielding automatic weapons and a fleet of pick-up trucks carrying its jubilant fighters through the blood-stained streets of Ramadi.
Shi'ite fighters have already launched a counter-offensive to recapture the city, but these kinds of tactics play straight into Islamic State's grand plan to spark all-out war in the region, according to the Middle East director of counter-terrorism think-tank RUSI.
Islamic State militants are already marching east towards the Habbaniya army base - around 20 miles east of Ramadi - where a column of 3,000 Shi'ite paramilitaries are amassing, witnesses and a military officer has said.
And if ISIS manage to reach Baghdad, it would be 'utter carnage', Professor Gareth Stansfield told MailOnline.
|Parade: After slaughtering 500 people and forcing over 8,000 from their homes, |
ISIS triumphantly drive through Ramadi (pictured) in a fleet of pick-up trucks
|Sick: One twisted image released through Islamic State's social media channels |
shows a small child carrying what appears to be a mortar shell in Ramadi -
after their victory in the city
|Innocence lost: ISIS has released pictures showing its militants - and young |
followers (pictured) - celebrating the capture of Ramadi as Shi'ite militias
prepare a counter-offensive to retake the city
'They [ISIS] are now having so many successes, and moving so quickly, that Baghdad is under very real threat from ISIS forces outside Baghdad and also the ISIS terror cells inside Baghdad as well.
'We're in for a very long summer of fighting in Iraq and ISIS could make their move [on Baghdad] in the next month. Taking Ramadi will... make the Shia militia in Baghdad even more radicalised and more dangerous.
'And this is what ISIS wants, it wants it to come out and have sectarian scrap which forces all the Sunni's to go towards ISIS.
This is just one way that moderate Muslims can be manipulated into joining radical Islam. When push comes to shove, and it will, moderate Muslims in Europe will join jihad, then all hell will break loose.
'If they had any opportunity to enter Baghdad, they would do. But it will be more and more difficult for them to do it because Baghdad is a military stronghold of the Shia militia.'
And if they manage to actually take Baghdad, which is predominantly Shia but has some Christian regions, Professor Stansfield says 'there would be massacres to the scale we haven't seen since the Mongol empire in the 13th Century'.
The UN said tonight that close to 25,000 people have fled Ramadi after militants attacked the city.
The question is, where are they going? Ramadi has been surrounded by ISIS for months. Where can they go?
United States-led airstrikes have stepped up raids against the Islamists, conducting 19 strikes near Ramadi over the past 72 hours at the request of the Iraqi security forces, a coalition spokesman said.
And as fighting rages in and around the city, Islamic State fighters are also taking on Iraq's military and tribal groups in the north.