By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
RAMADI, IRAQ (ANS – Dec. 27,2015) – Iraqi forces have retaken a former government compound in Ramadi from where Islamic State (IS) group militants have been resisting an army offensive, the military has said.
The complex was “under complete control” and there was no sign of IS fighters, a spokesman said.
According to the BBC, he said this heralded the defeat of IS in the city, although he admitted there could be pockets of resistance.
“The government has been trying to retake Ramadi for weeks,” stated the BBC. “The mainly Sunni Arab city, about 55 miles (90km) west of Baghdad, fell to IS in May, and was seen as an embarrassing defeat for the army.”
In recent days, troops have been picking their way through booby-trapped streets and buildings as they pushed towards the city center, seizing several districts on the way.
After sniper fire from the compound stopped and aerial surveillance detected no human activity, Iraqi soldiers moved in.
The military spokesman, Sabah al-Numani, told Reuters: “The complex is under our complete control, there is no presence whatsoever of [IS] fighters in the complex.
“By controlling the complex this means that they have been defeated in Ramadi. The next step is to clear pockets that could exist here or there in the city.”
The BBC’s Thomas Fessy in Baghdad said, “Controlling this compound is key to retaking Ramadi. Iraqi soldiers are slowly clearing it as they fear it may have been rigged to explode. Troops are also busy in the surrounding neighbourhood, where pockets of resistance remain.
“The authorities will hail this week’s offensive as a success – in stark contrast with the security forces’ hasty retreat from Ramadi last May. However, it took months to mount this ground campaign, in co-ordination with coalition air strikes.
“Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the army would soon move to retake the northern city of Mosul – and that will be the biggest prize. But it is the largest population center under the control of IS in Iraq, and the battle there will be much tougher.”
There had been no clear indications of the number of IS militants who had been defending the city, although some reports put it at around 400. No official toll of Iraqi army casualties has been given.
The Iraqi military believes the remaining militants have headed north-east; with fighting also reported to be under way to the south-west of the compound.
Gen Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of Anbar military operations, told Associated Press that the fighting had been tough given IS’s use of suicide bombers, snipers and booby traps.
Concern also remains for the plight of hundreds of families who have been trapped on the frontline, Thomas Fessy added, “Although the full extent of the situation on the ground remains unclear, Agence France-Presse reported there had been celebrations on the streets of a number of Iraqi cities.
“The operation to recapture Ramadi began in early November, but made slow progress, mainly because the government chose not to use the powerful Shia-dominated paramilitary force that helped it regain the northern city of Tikrit, to avoid increasing sectarian tensions.”
Photo captions: 1) Iraqi troops moving towards Ramadi. 2) IS conducting yet another of its barbaric killings. 3) The fall of Ramadi to IS. 4) Dan Wooding outside the Kurdistan Government building in Erbil, Northern Iraq, on a reporting trip for ANS.
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About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the author of some 45 books and has two TV programs and one radio show in Southern California, and has reported widely for ANS from all over the Middle East, including Northern Iraq.
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