Iraqi forces launch long-awaited offensive on IS-held Ramadi

Iraqi forces launch long-awaited offensive on IS-held Ramadi
Iraqi army and militia units have launched a fresh assault on Ramadi city and won back territory from the Islamic State group.
2 min read
22 December, 2015

Iraqi security forces have advanced into the centre of Ramadi city, which has been under the control of Islamic State group since May, a security official said.

Troops and militiamen had surrounded Ramadi for weeks, waiting for the order to make a final offensive on the city.

Civilians had already been warned to leave the city in preperation for the assault, although there were reports IS militants had prevented families from fleeing.

"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.

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

The fresh push was launched overnight and is meant to result in the full recapture of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's western province of Anbar.

The fighting in Ramadi is led by the elite counter-terrorism force, backed by US-led coalition air strikes and also supported by forces from the police, the army and Sunni tribes opposed to the extremists.

IS has lost several key towns in Iraq since Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region started fighting back following the group's devastating offensive 18 months ago.

The Shia-dominated Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces were heavily involved in the battles that led to the recapture of towns such as Tikrit and Baiji but they have remained on the fringes in the battle for Ramadi.

Retaking the city, an insurgent bastion that saw some of the deadliest fighting against US troops a decade ago, would be the Iraqi federal forces' most significant victory so far.