Iraq forces retake large part of Ramadi city from IS: Officials
Iraqi security forces on Tuesday recaptured a large area on the southwestern side of Ramadi from the Islamic State group, which overran the city in May, officials said.
Retaking the al-Tameem area from IS is a significant victory for Iraqi forces, who have been fighting for months to secure territory around Ramadi, a major city west of Baghdad and the capital of the vast Anbar province.
"Today, our forces completely cleared the al-Tameem area after a fierce battle against Daesh gunmen," Sabah al-Noman, the spokesman for Iraq's counter-terrorism service, told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
IS fighters "had no choice except to surrender or fight and they were completely destroyed," Noman said.
Major General Hadi al-Irzayij, the police chief for Anbar, confirmed that al-Tameem had been retaken as did Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command.
Iraqi journalist Suadad al-Salhy told MEE that it looked as though the Iraqi forces were now almost at the heart of the city.
Anbar governor Suhaib al-Rawy called the advance a “gateway to liberate the rest of Ramadi”.
In a Facebook post he urged civilians to “make their way to the humanitarian corridors in the south” of the city and pledged that the government would soon start to provide basic services.
According to Rawy, IS suffered “huge losses” and “tens” of its fighters had been killed, with its leaders fleeing. Reports indicated that when IS took the city it killed some 500 people, including soldiers and civilians, and forced at least 8,000 others to flee.
Sources told Chinese Xinhua agency on condition of anonymity that there was heavy house-to-house fighting between IS and the Iraqi army which was flanked by Sunni tribal militias and US-led coalition air strikes.
Iraqi forces are now reportedly working to clear bombs planted by IS in al-Tameem, which is bordered by a branch of the Euphrates River that divides it from the next militant-held area.
Iraq’s Defence Ministry said in a statement that IS had suffered huge losses to its forces and weaponry during the operation, although the true extent of the losses is not yet clear.
On Monday, commander of Anbar operations Major General Ismail Mahlawi told Iraqi media that dozens of IS fighters had been killed north of the provincial capital by US-led coalition airstrikes.
“The shelling came after receiving intelligence information,” he told IraqiNews.com “It has led to serious material losses in the ranks of IS.”
IS overran large parts of Iraq in June 2014, including major territory in Anbar, which stretches from the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad. However, IS was not able to fully capture the provincial capital until May.
The army was fiercely criticised for its withdrawal from Ramadi, which dampened Baghdad's hopes of quickly routing them following earlier victories in eastern provinces. Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi has since ordered military commanders to be investigated for their role in the city's fall.
The US had been urging on its Iraqi allies to launch a counter offensive since the summer, but drives to retake the city were repeatedly delayed.
Ramadi is located 100 kilometres west from Baghdad.