Iraq forces recapture large part of Ramadi city from ISIL
Baghdad // Iraqi security forces recaptured a large part of the city of Ramadi from ISIL yesterday, officials said, in a significant breakthrough in their fightback against the extremists.
Baghdad’s forces have been fighting for months to secure territory around Ramadi, the capital of the vast Anbar province. Retaking the Tameem area is an important step in the battle for the major city west of Baghdad.
Warplanes from the US-led coalition battling ISIL have backed them in the fighting, carrying out more than 45 air strikes in the Ramadi area in the past week.
“Today, our forces completely cleared the Al Tameem area after a fierce battle against Daesh gunmen,” said Sabah Al Noman, the spokesman for Iraq’s counter-terrorism service.
ISIL fighters “had no choice except to surrender or fight and they were completely destroyed.”
Maj Gen Hadi Irzayij, the police chief for Anbar, confirmed that Al Tameem had been retaken, as did Brig Gen Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command.
“The liberation of Al Tameem will greatly help in speeding up the liberation of the city of Ramadi,” Brig Rasool said.
“Iraqi forces are ready and close to entering the centre of the city,” Gen Irzayij said.
Al Tameem lies to the southwest of ISIL-held central Ramadi and Iraqi forces now need to make matching advances to the north in order to attack the militants from both sides.
For now, they are working to clear bombs planted by ISIL a favoured tactic of the extremists that means they can kill security personnel and civilians long after they have withdrawn from an area.
“The process of removing bombs from the houses and roads has begun,” Gen Irzayij said.
Rasool said large amounts of weapons and supplies had been found, as well as explosives-rigged vehicles.
Shifting parts of Ramadi, 100 kilometres from Baghdad, had been held by anti-government fighters since the beginning of last year, but ISIL did not succeed in completely overrunning it until May of this year.
On Monday, coalition aircraft targeted ISIL units, fighting positions, vehicles and supplies, as well as machineguns and a mortar system used by the extremists, according to a statement on the strikes.
International support in the form of strikes, training and arms plays an important role in Iraq’s battle against ISIL, but Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi is walking a fine line between receiving that assistance and protecting sovereignty.
Iraq is in a row with Turkey over the deployment of up to 300 soldiers and 20 tanks to a base in the country’s north where Ankara’s forces have trained Sunnis who have volunteered to fight ISIL.
Baghdad on Monday gave Ankara 48 hours to remove the newly deployed forces, but said the ultimatum did not apply to Turkish advisers in the country.
Mr Al Abadi also made a series of increasingly strident statements about foreign forces in the country last week after remarks by US officials about sending additional troops to Iraq sparked a major political backlash.
He said the deployment of foreign combat ground forces to Iraq was a “hostile act,” but was also careful to make clear that Baghdad still welcomes other forms of assistance.
* Agence France-Presse
Published: December 9, 2015 04:00 AM