The Iraqi army is about as ferocious as a litter of puppies.

BAGHDAD — 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.  […]

The major assault came Sunday. Soldiers interviewed said army commanders had sent word via walkie-talkie that a rescue mission was on its way and had taken control of a nearby bridge.

Shortly afterward, Iraqi army armored vehicles and military trucks arrived, and the men inside were dressed in the uniforms of Iraqi counterterrorism forces, the surviving soldiers said.

“We thought this was the support we were promised was on the way,” said Capt. Ahmed Hussein of the 8th Division. “The first three Humvees were ahead of the rest with some military trucks. We just let them in.”

One Humvee exploded in the middle of the camp. The two others drove to the perimeter and detonated. The rest of the Islamic State convoy was held back at the entrance, where the survivors said the militants carried out several more suicide bombings as they tried to break in.

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