The army base in Iraq’s western Anbar province had been under siege by Islamic State militants for a week, so when a convoy of armored Humvees rolled up at the gate, the Iraqi soldiers at Camp Saqlawiyah believed saviors had arrived.
But this was no rescue attempt. The vehicles were driven by militants on suicide missions, and within seconds on Sunday the base had become a bloody scene of multiple bombings.
On Monday, a day after the attack, five survivors — including three officers — said that between 300 and 500 soldiers were missing and believed to be dead, kidnapped or in hiding. Army officials said the numbers were far lower, leading to accusations that they were concealing the true toll.
If the survivors’ accounts are correct, it would make Sunday the most disastrous day for the Iraqi army since several divisions collapsed in the wake of the Islamic State’s capture of the northern city of Mosul amid its cross-country sweep in June.