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Iraq begins major anti-ISIL offensive
December 22, 2015, 3:26 pm

Heavy US-led coalition and Iraqi aerial bombardment has leveled many neighborhoods in Ramadi and Falluja in Anbar province [Xinhua]

Heavy US-led coalition and Iraqi aerial bombardment has leveled many neighborhoods in Ramadi and Falluja in Anbar province [Xinhua]


Iraqi military commanders say their troops – backed by Shia militia, Sunni tribesmen and US-led coalition aerial bombardment – have started to push into Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, which was seized by the Islamic State last May.

“We are in an operation to control parts of the city to prepare for an assault to retake the city center,” Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanemi told state-controlled media.

US military sources said that the Iraqi forces appeared to have started to inch their way into the center of the city despite heavy Islamic State resistance.

Iraqi officials told local media that ISIL fighters had prevented civilians from leaving the city and were using them as human shields.

On the eve of the Ramadi offensive, the Pentagon reported that US-led coalition air raids killed 350 ISIL fighters in Ramadi.

But the campaign is still likely to be long and bloody. It is estimated that there may be as many as 500 ISIL fighters barricaded in the city.

ISIL forces have blown up key bridges which Iraqi and Shia militia forces would have used to gain control of Ramadi.

Last week, Iraqi military sources said a series of suicide car bomb attacks killed 35 soldiers outside Ramadi.

Liberating Ramadi would be a significant boost to the Iraqi government in its nearly 20-month war with ISIL and serve as a launching pad to clear the rest of Anbar of Islamist extremist forces.

Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government eventually want to launch a campaign to liberate the northern city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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