Iraqi forces advance on Anbar's Islamic State group 'islands'
Iraqi government forces edged closer on Monday to recapturing the Islamic state group's last pockets of resistance in Anbar province.
Troops and allied Shia militants are readying for a final assault on IS-held Khalidiya Island near Ramadi, just days after the area was declared free of the militants.
"Iraqi forces have up until now failed to fully liberate Khalidiya Island as was previously announced. There are large, dangerous pockets of IS fighters in the Albu Bali and al-Kartan areas," an officer in the Anbar Operational Command told The New Arab.
"There have been sporadic clashes in the two areas, which IS is fiercely defending, while Iraqi warplanes have bombarded IS locations there."
The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said IS-held areas have been heavily damaged by the ongoing bombardment, which should give Iraqi soldiers a better chance of success.
Iraqi federal police said in a statement that nine IS fighters had been killed and that several booby-trapped homes in Khalidiya Island had been deactivated.
Last month, Anbar Provincial Council prematurely announced that Khalidiya Island, a river peninsula between Ramadi and Habbaniya, had been taken back from IS.
Militants withdrew to Khalidiya Island after nearby Ramadi - the capital of Anbar province - was recaptured by Iraqi forces at the end of December. Sporodic fighting in the area continued into this year.
On Saturday, a Shia militia leader said that a mass grave of 200 IS fighters had been found in the region.