The Iraqi Army has launched an attack to recapture the center of Ramadi from Islamic State terrorists, a counter-terrorism spokesman, Sabah Al-Numani has told Reuters. The government forces lost control of the city in May.
“Our forces are advancing toward the government complex in the center of Ramadi,” Al-Numani said, as cited by Reuters. “The fighting is in the neighborhoods around the complex, with support from the air force.”
Ramadi is a key urban settlement in the country and is the capital of the western Anbar province.
On Monday, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) militants were reported to prevent civilians from leaving the city as they anticipated an attack.
“There is intelligence information from inside the city that they [Islamic State] are preventing families from leaving; they plan to use them as human shields,” Naseer Nuri, a spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry, was quoted as saying by Reuters. Nuri’s remarks indicate the Iraqi military may have gained intelligence from several families that managed to escape Ramadi.
An unnamed Iraqi Army chief also said on Monday that an attack to liberate the city was imminent.
“The operation to free Ramadi will begin in the coming hours,” the official was cited as saying in a headline on screen. No further details were given, and the officer was not identified by name, Reuters reported.
Iraqi intelligence believes there are between 250 and 300 IS terrorists in the center of Ramadi.
Iraqi government forces lost control of the city in May, despite significant US aerial support. Immediately after its fall, Danny Makki, of the Syrian youth movement in the UK spoke to RT and said it could take over a decade to win back control of Ramadi.
“Ramadi is an area nearing Anbar which is of such significant nature to ISIS. They focus a lot of their efforts and strategic planning on taking this particular city in what is a very large defeat for the Iraqi government and for the anti-ISIS coalition led by the US. If the US was truly fighting ISIS as with many other Arab countries and world countries, Ramadi wouldn’t have fallen because it is such a significant city with such an importance on the Iraqi battlefield,” he said.