US 'may back Iraq with helicopters' in Ramadi fight

US 'may back Iraq with helicopters' in Ramadi fight
Washington expressed willingness on Wednesday to support Iraqi forces with attack helicopters as they battle IS extremists in Ramadi, and urged allies to intensify efforts against Islamic State.
3 min read
10 December, 2015
Iraqi forces made significant advance into Ramadi on Tuesday [Getty]

Washington called Wednesday for allies to intensify efforts against the Islamic State group and expressed willingness to support Iraqi forces with attack helicopters as they battle the jihadists in Ramadi.  

Iraq's forces have been fighting for months to close in around Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and took a large part of the key city on Tuesday. 

But as Iraqi forces cemented their hold on the newly recaptured al-Tamim area, an IS suicide bomber killed at least eight people in Baghdad, illustrating the danger posed by the jihadists even far from the front lines. 

"The international community , including our allies and partners  has to step up before another attack like Paris," US defence chief Ashton Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, referring to the militant attack with guns and bombs that killed 130 people. 

     One of the main tasks for Iraqi forces now is to clear the area of bombs planted by IS.

Carter outlined increased US military efforts against IS, and said Washington is willing to use attack helicopters to provide air support for Iraqi forces in Ramadi. 

"The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers," Carter said. 

This would be done "if circumstances dictate and if requested by Prime Minister Abadi," he said. 

The advance in Ramadi on Tuesday was hailed as a significant step in efforts to retake the city, a key IS hub 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Baghdad, and fragment the jihadists' self-proclaimed "caliphate".  

As the counter-terrorism forces that led the offensive prepared their next move, local forces from Anbar province moved in to hold recaptured territory.  

The force consists of around 500 fighters, a military source said.  

One of the main tasks for Iraqi forces now is to clear the area of bombs planted by IS, a favoured tactic of the jihadists that means they can kill security personnel and civilians long after they have withdrawn from an area.

Iraqi forces spent months cutting off IS supply lines around Ramadi and slowly closing in on the city by taking suburban areas one after the other.

Concern for civilians

An Iraqi brigadier general involved in the Ramadi operation said civilians who are able to move are being urged to head to Humayrah, a staging ground controlled by Iraqi forces on the southern edge of Ramadi. 

But he admitted that it was difficult for those residents still inside the city to leave.

IS overran large parts of Iraq in June 2014, including major territory in Anbar, which stretches from the borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad. 

Shifting parts of Ramadi had been held by anti-government fighters since the beginning of 2014, but IS did not succeed in completely overrunning it until May of this year. 

There was no immediate reaction to the developments in Ramadi from IS, but the group claimed a suicide attack that killed eight people in the capital Baghdad Wednesday.

The blast near a shia mosque in the eastern Obeidi area also wounded at least 19 people, security and medical officials said.