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Iraqi Forces "Advance Into DAESH/ISIS-held Ramadi"
Old 12-22-2015
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Default Iraqi Forces "Advance Into DAESH/ISIS-held Ramadi"

Iraqi Forces "Advance Into DAESH/ISIS-held Ramadi"

Iraqi officials said government forces were advancing into central Ramadi on several fronts

35 minutes ago

Iraqi government forces are advancing into the center of the city of Ramadi, which is controlled by jihadist group Islamic State (IS), officials say.

A spokesman for the Counter-Terrorism Service, Sabah al-Numani, said troops and militiamen, supported by the air force, were making good progress.

They were heading towards the main government complex, he added.

Ramadi, about 90km (55 miles) west of Baghdad, fell to IS in May in an embarrassing defeat for the Iraqi army.

Last month, government forces completed their encirclement of the predominantly Sunni Arab city, cutting off militants inside the center from their strongholds elsewhere in Anbar province and in neighboring Syria.

'Human shields'

Mr. Numani said troops from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, backed by the army, Sunni tribesmen and US-led coalition aircraft, had begun the assault on central Ramadi at dawn and were advancing towards the government complex.

"We went into the center of Ramadi from several fronts and we began purging residential areas," he told the AFP news agency.
"The city will be cleared in the coming 72 hours.

"Our forces reached the Bakr neighborhood. We did not face strong resistance - only snipers and suicide bombers, and this is a tactic we expected," he added.

A source in the Iraqi military's Anbar Operations Command told the BBC that engineers had built temporary bridges over the River Euphrates, which flows along the north and west of the city center. This had enabled troops to enter directly the al-Haouz district, south-west of the government complex, the source added.

IS militants destroyed bridges over the River Euphrates to slow the government's advance

The army has recruited Sunni tribesmen opposed to IS for to support its assault on Ramadi

Iraqi intelligence estimates that between 250 and 300 militants are inside Ramadi.

The US military says they have developed a strong defensive system, including using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to create minefields.

On Monday, the defence ministry warned that the jihadists had prevented civilians leaving since leaflets warning of an assault were dropped over the city last month.

"They plan to use them as human shields," spokesman Naseer Nuri told the Reuters news agency, without indicating the number of civilians who were at risk.

Sources inside Ramadi told the BBC on Tuesday that IS militants had also carried out a campaign of raids and mass arrests of residents in districts still under their control, in an attempt to prevent an uprising in support of the government offensive.

The western Tamim district was retaken by Counter-Terrorism Service forces earlier this month

The operation to recapture Ramadi, which began in early November, has made slow progress, mainly because the government has chosen not to use the powerful Shia-dominated paramilitary force that helped it regain the northern city of Tikrit to avoid increasing sectarian tensions.

IS has lost control of several key towns in Iraq to government and Kurdish forces since over-running large swathes of the country's west and north in June 2014 and proclaiming the creation of a "caliphate" that also extended into neighboring Syria.

On Monday, analysis by IHS Jane's suggested that IS had lost 14% of its overall territory in Iraq and Syria, about 12,800 sq km (4,940 sq miles), over the past year.

Despite this, the group has been able to capture new territory of strategic value over the same period, including Ramadi and Palmyra in Syria's Homs province. It also still controls the Iraqi cities of Falluja, east of Ramadi, and Mosul, in the north.

What is Islamic State?

IS is a notoriously violent Islamist group which controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. It has declared its territory a caliphate - a state governed in accordance with Islamic law - under its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

What does it want?

IS demands allegiance from all Muslims, rejects national borders and seeks to expand its territory. It adheres to its own extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam and regards non-believers as deserving of death.

How strong is IS?

IS projects a powerful image, partly through propaganda and sheer brutality, and is the world's richest insurgent group. It has about 30,000 fighters but is facing daily bombing by a US-led multi-national coalition, which has vowed to destroy it.

More on Islamic State



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