Iraqi troops battle to retake Isis-held city of Ramadi

Operation undertaken by mix of soldiers, police and Sunni tribesmen opposed to Isis

Iraq’s counter-terrorist forces have stormed the centre of Ramadi in a drive to dislodge Islamic State militants from their remaining stronghold which they captured in May. Video: REUTERS

 

Iraqi soldiers began a fierce assault to wrest control of the city of Ramadi from Islamic State on Monday night, and by midday Tuesday had battled their way towards the city centre despite heavy resistance, an army commander said.

The operation was undertaken by a mix of soldiers, police officers and Sunni tribesmen opposed to Islamic State (Isis), with close air support from the US, which conducted 12 strikes around Ramadi on Tuesday.

“I think the fall of Ramadi is inevitable,” said Col Steven H Warren, a US military spokesman. “The end is coming.”

But he added: “That said, it’s going to be a tough fight.”

The Iraqis ran into stiff resistance from Isis, including from booby-trapped buildings and improvised explosive devices.

About 300 Isis fighters were believed to be present in the northern reaches of the city.

Sudden collapse

Ramadi fell to Isis in May in a sudden collapse after a five-month battle. Since July, there have been a number of reports about efforts by the Iraqi army to retake the city, but the latest offensive has been the most serious and sustained.

Six hundred to a thousand Islamic State fighters were in Ramadi when the offensive began two weeks ago, but several hundred of them have been killed in heavy fighting since then.

Those remaining did not appear to be giving up easily. They destroyed three bridges over the Euphrates River to prevent security forces from entering the city, according to Gen Ahmed al-Belawi, leader of a battalion of Sunni tribal fighters.

Isis leaflets

In a telephone briefing on Tuesday, Col Warren said coalition forces had recovered Isis leaflets in the nearby city of Fallujah urging its fighters - if they lose control of the city - to impersonate Iraqi security forces and carry out atrocities.

“Some acts that they’re instructed to do on this document include blowing up mosques, killing and torturing civilians and breaking into homes while dressed as ISF [Iraqi security forces] fighters,” Warren said. “They do all this to discredit the ISF.”

A security official in Anbar province said in a phone interview that Isis “are preventing the people of Ramadi from leaving and using them as human shields”.

New York Times