ISIS militants armed with tanks and Humvees besieged an Iraqi town less than 25 miles from Baghdad, a senior security official said Thursday.

Jihadis began attacking Amiriyah Fallujah from the north, south, and west in the early hours of Wednesday, the official told NBC News on condition of anonymity. Seizing the town, on the Euphrates river just 20 miles west of Baghdad Airport, would be a strategic victory for ISIS because of its proximity to the capital, according to Dr. Afzal Ashraf, consultant fellow at the London-based Royal United Services Institute think-tank.

Still, Ashraf said the town’s capture would be largely symbolic given Baghdad’s solid defenses. “They might try to launch wave attacks, which is all they could do” said Ashraf. “Shiite militias are guarding the routes into Baghdad so they would have to run the gauntlet. I don’t think this would be the first step on entering Baghdad but [ISIS] would certainly try.”

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