Iraq revels fall of Ramadi after forcing out ISIS

2015-12-28 13:32
An Iraqi soldier enters downtown Ramadi, 115km west of Baghdad. (AP)

An Iraqi soldier enters downtown Ramadi, 115km west of Baghdad. (AP)

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Baghdad - The Iraqi security forces are rejoicing in the recapture of Ramadi, after ISIS abandoned its last stronghold, effectively handing Iraqi forces their biggest victory since last year's massive jihadist nationwide offensive.

There were still parts of the flashpoint government complex the elite counter-terrorism service could not enter as jihadists had rigged the entire area with explosives before retreating.  While pockets of jihadists may remain, Iraqi forces said they no longer faced any resistance and officials were already congratulating them for liberating Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province.

Clearing effort

"All Daesh (ISIS) fighters have left. There is no resistance," said Sabah al-Numan, the counter-terrorism force's spokesperson.

"The operation is almost wrapped up", as a major clearing effort was still needed to allow forces to move in.

People waving Iraqi flags celebrated the Ramadi victory in several cities, including Baghdad and the holy Shi'ite city of Karbala.

Parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi issued a statement congratulating the "heroes of the security forces for a great victory, which resulted in the liberation of the city of Ramadi from terrorism."

The US-led coalition, which was heavily involved in supporting Iraqi forces in Ramadi, also congratulated them on the success of an operation that began soon after they lost the city in May.

Spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren said: "It's the result of many months of hard work by the Iraqi Army, the counter terrorism service, the Iraqi Air Force, local and federal police and tribal fighters all supported by over 600 coalition air strikes since July."

Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes had punched into the centre of Ramadi on Tuesday in a final push to retake the city.

Fighting over the past two days had been concentrated around the government complex, whose recapture had become synonymous with victory in the battle for Ramadi.

According to medical sources, 93 members of the security forces were brought in with injuries on Sunday alone.

"The bodies are taken directly to the main military hospital" near the airport, said one hospital source.

Drastically declined

At least five government fighters have been killed over the past two days alone, but no official has divulged any overall toll for the operation.

Estimates a week ago were that the Islamic State had around 400 fighters to defend central Ramadi, many of them protecting the government compound.

Those numbers were thought to have drastically declined over the past two days, with several fighters retreating from the main battle and dozens of others killed in fighting or in suicide attacks.

Ali Dawood, the head of the neighbouring Khaldiya council, said ISIS fighters used civilians as human shields to slip out of the government complex.

Ramadi lies about 100km west of Baghdad and is the capital of Anbar, which is Iraq's largest province and borders Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

A victory there would help boost Iraq's much-criticised military, which collapsed when ISIS took over large parts of the country in June 2014.

Government forces held off months of IS assaults in Ramadi until May 2015, when the jihadists blitzed them with massive suicide car bombs and seized full control of the city.

ISIS still holds Fallujah, which lies in the Euphrates Valley between Ramadi and Baghdad, as well as the country's second city of Mosul.

Read more on:    isis  |  iraq

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