U.S. ‘expedites’ weapons shipments to Iraq in wake of ISIS advances

CNN  — 

The U.S. is “expediting” weapons shipments to Iraq in light of the ISIS advances in Ramadi, Vice President Joe Biden told Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in a telephone call on Friday.

The announcement from the White House comes on the heels of a flurry of new airstrikes against ISIS, also known as ISIL, as Iraqi forces desperately try to hold the key city, the capital of the key Anbar province.

RELATED: ISIS on offensive in Iraq’s Ramadi

Earlier Friday, the terror group raised its trademark black flag over the provincial government building and captured the city’s police headquarters and the Ramadi Great Mosque. The Pentagon says it is part of a propaganda tactic where the terror group raises a flag and posts it to social media before the Iraqi army moves in and tries to take it back.

The city, located in the middle of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim heartland, is located just 70 miles west of Baghdad.

The White House said in a statement that the weapons include AT-4 shoulder-held rockets to counter vehicle-bourne improvised explosive devices, as well as ammunition and other supplies.

“The vice president assured the prime minister of continued and expedited U.S. security assistance to confront ISIL,” the statement said. “Both leaders agreed on the importance and urgency of mobilizing tribal fighters working in coordination with Iraqi security forces to counter ISIL and to ensure unity of effort among all of Iraq’s communities.”

A U.S. official said Friday that the Ramadi situation “remains very fluid,” and characterized the situation as “50/50,” with Iraqi forces in control of much of the city center and ISIS in the suburbs surrounding it. A senior administration confirmed to CNN earlier Friday that eight new airstrikes were launched against ISIS targets in Ramadi since 7 p.m. local time, as the coalition ramps up its efforts.

The ISIS push began Thursday, using armored bulldozers and at least 10 suicide bombings to burst through gates and blast through walls in Ramadi, according to a security source who has since left the city. Dozens of militants followed them into the city center. The US military called it a “complex attack.”

Anbar Gov. Suhaib Al-Rawi said the offensive, including suicide-attacks with explosive-rigged cars near security posts, continued into Friday.

Each side has since alternated gains and losses in territory. Ramadi citizens have suffered greatly in the process. About 114,000 people have fled the area – many heading to Baghdad – in the last month alone, the United Nations refugee agency has said, citing the Iraqi government.

CNN’s Barbara Starr and Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.