Iran-backed militias 'head for Iraq's IS-held Ramadi'

About 500 people are reported to have died when the Iraqi military abandoned positions in the city - only 70 miles (112km) west of Baghdad.A regional government official spoke of people fleeing Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, "in great numbers".

But the US has said it is confident the capture of Ramadi can be reversed.Speaking in South Korea, Secretary of State John Kerry said: "I am convinced that as the forces are redeployed and as the days flow in the weeks ahead that's going to change."

The Shia militias, known as the Popular Mobilisation (Hashid Shaabi), were key to the recapture from IS of another city, Tikrit, north of Baghdad, two months ago. But their use has raised concern in the US and elsewhere.The militias pulled out of Tikrit following reports of widespread violence and looting.

The Iraqi government feared the sectarian repercussions of sending Shia forces into Ramadi, a heavily Sunni area, the BBC's Jim Muir reports from Beirut.The police and military made a chaotic retreat from Ramadi after days of intense fighting.

A statement purportedly from IS said its fighters had "purged the entire city". It said IS had taken the 8th Brigade army base, along with tanks and missile launchers left behind by troops.A very well-placed source in the Anbar governor's office told the BBC Ramadi was now under the full control of IS, and all government troops had withdrawn.

An army officer told the BBC that most troops had retreated to a military base in the city of Khalidiya, east of Ramadi, despite an order from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for them to stand firm.