Isis in Ramadi: Militants on verge of defeat as Iraqi forces 'enter government compound'

Recapturing the key stronghold would be one of the most significant victories for Iraq's armed forces since 2014

Agency,Staff
Sunday 27 December 2015 14:10
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If the offensive in Ramadi succeeds, it will be the second main city to be retaken by the Iraqi government
If the offensive in Ramadi succeeds, it will be the second main city to be retaken by the Iraqi government

Isis appears to be on the verge of being defeated in the key stronghold of Ramadi, with Iraqi forces reportedly inside a former government compound.

Sources told the AFP news agency that all militants belonging the group had retreated from a besieged government compound by Sunday afternoon.

Recapturing the city, which fell to the militants in May, would be one of the most significant victories for Iraq's armed forces since Isis swept across a third of the country in 2014.

The soldiers were reportedly within 300 metres of the provincial government headquarters by this morning, Sabah al-Numani, a spokesman for the counter-terrorism force that is leading the fight on the government side, said.

"We expect to reach the compound in the next 24 hours," he told Reuters. "Booby trapped houses and roadside bombs are all over the streets, they have to be cleared; air surveillance is helping detect car bombs and suicide bombers before they get to us."

However, a separate source has told the BBC that troops had already entered one building inside the compound and were preparing to push on further.

Ramadi is the capital of the mainly Sunni Muslim Anbar province in the fertile Euphrates River valley, just two hours drive west of Baghdad.

If the offensive in Ramadi succeeds, it will be the second main city to be retaken by the Iraqi government after Tikrit, in April. Officials said it would be handed over to the local police and to a Sunni tribal force once secured.

Ramadi was Islamic State's biggest prize of 2015, abandoned by government forces in May in a major setback for Baghdad and for the Iraqi troops trained by the United States since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The Iraqi government forces are backed by air support from an international coalition led by the United States.

Shi'ite militias backed by Iran, which have played a major role in other offensive against Islamic State, have been kept away by the Iraqi government from the battlefield in Ramadi to avoid sectarian tensions.

After Ramadi, the army plans to move to retake the northern city of Mosul, the biggest population centre under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria.

Dislodging the militants from Mosul, which had a pre-war population close to 2 million, would effectively abolish their state structure in Iraq and deprive them of a major source of funding, which comes partly from oil and partly from fees and taxes on residents.

On another front in Anbar, the army took several positions in Nuaimiya, south of the city of Falluja, a bastion of the group that lies between Baghdad and Ramadi, killing 23 militants, the spokesman for the joint operations Brigadier Yahya Rasool said.

Reuters

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