Iraqi security forces advance into centre of Ramadi

23 Dec 2015

Iraqi security forces advanced into the centre of Ramadi on the second day of an assault that began yesterday to drive Islamic State militants from the city for a final push with which they seek to retake the city they lost to the ISIS group in May, AP reported quoting officials.

"We went into the centre of Ramadi from several fronts and we began purging residential areas," said Sabah al-Noman, spokesman of the Iraqi counter-terrorism service, AP reported.

"The city will be cleared in the coming 72 hours," he said.

"Our forces reached the Bakr neighbourhood. We did not face strong resistance, only snipers and suicide bombers and this is a tactic we expected," Noman told AFP.

The fresh assault launched overnight was aimed at fully recapturing Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's western province of Anbar.

The fighting in the city was led by the elite counter-terrorism force, with support from US-led coalition air strikes. It was also backed by forces from the police, the army and Sunni tribes opposed to the terrorists.

ISIS had had to yield several key towns in Iraq. The autonomous Kurdish region also started fighting back after the terrorists group launched its devastating offensive 18 months ago.

Ramadi being a Sunni dominated area, it is likely to be difficult for the Iraqi army to capture without a big fight and causalities, according to commentators.

According to spokesman Al-Noman, the troops yesterday crossed the Euphrates River to reach downtown Ramadi. The city had been under IS control since May, when Iraqi forces withdrew after an IS onslaught.

According to Al-Noman sporadic clashes were underway and Iraqi forces were being forced to remove roadside bombs as they pushed forward.

According to Al-Noman, the Iraqi air force and the US-led international coalition were providing air support to troops on the ground and bombing IS targets.

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