BAGHDAD, April 14 (UPI) -- A single Iraqi M1 Abrams tank has been reportedly devastating Islamic State positions within the city of Hit in western Iraq's Anbar province, earning the nickname "The Beast" on social media and among U.S. and coalition advisers.
"Frankly, [the M1] has been handing it to the enemy regularly now for several days," Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led mission to drive Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria, told reporters. Warren was responding to criticisms about Iraqi forces being "slow in the pace of their operations" and not being aggressive enough.
"And so this M1 tank has been driving all around Hit ... blasting [Improvised Explosive Devices], punching holes in enemy defenses, and maneuvering between multiple engagements and allowing ... Iraqi army ground forces, you know, to clear and help evacuate civilians," Warren said.
Iraqi forces backed by U.S. airpower have been battling Islamic State fighters for weeks to retake Hit from the terror group's control. The city, 85 miles west of Baghdad, is seen as a critical waypoint near the country's border with Syria.
The tank had been maneuvering in and around enemy positions inside Hit that at one point, U.S. advisers monitoring the fighting assumed several Iraqi tanks were operating within Hit, Warren said.
"We actually had to reach into the unit and discover it was just one tank that was tearing up Hit all by itself," he said of the tank's combat performance, earning it the "Beast" moniker.
"So this tank has been so successful, this one tank crew, that the American advisers who actually watch this tank in action have -- have given it the hero-of-the-day award for, like, several days running."