Iraqi forces seize ISIL stronghold in Ramadi: Spokesman
An Iraqi pro-government forces member watches smoke billowing in Ramadi's Hoz neighbourhood, about 110 kilometers west of the capital Baghdad, during military operations conducted by Iraqi forces against ISIL, on December 27, 2015.Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition on Dec. 27 took control of the government complex in central Ramadi, the last Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stronghold in the western city, a military spokesman said.
“By controlling the complex this means that they [ISIL] have been defeated in Ramadi,” Sabah al-Numan, a spokesman for the force leading the fight on the government side, was quoted as saying by Reuters. “The next step is to clear pockets that could exist here or there in the city.”
“The complex is under our complete control, there is no presence whatsoever of Daesh fighters in the complex,” he told Reuters, using an Arabic acronym of ISIL.
“All Daesh fighters have left. There is no resistance,” AFP quoted al-Numan as telling them, adding that the entire perimeter had to be cleared of mines and booby traps before troops could move in.
Recapturing Ramadi, which fell to the militants in May, would be one of the most significant victories for Iraq’s armed forces since ISIL swept across a third of the country in 2014.
Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes had punched into the city center on Dec. 22, in a final push to retake the city they lost in May.
The fighting over the past two days had been concentrated around the former government complex, which ISIL fighters defended with snipers, suicide car bomb attacks and hundreds of roadside bombs and booby traps.
Ramadi is a provincial capital in the fertile Euphrates River valley, just two hours’ drive west of Baghdad.
Soldiers advanced overnight in the Hoz neighborhood that houses the provincial government compound, joint operations command spokesman Brigadier Yahya Rasool said hours one day before the government complex was taken, according to Reuters.
“The counter-terrorism forces are within 800 meters from the government complex,” advancing by about 1 km in the past day, Rasool said Dec. 26.
“Air strikes helped detonate explosive devices and booby-trapped houses, facilitating our advance,” he added.