Battle to Dislodge IS From Iraq’s Ramadi Will Take Days

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
Smoke rises from Islamic State positions following a U.S.-led coalition airstrike as Iraqi Security forces advance their position in Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015. Iraqi forces on Tuesday reported progress in the military operation to retake the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State group, saying they made the most significant incursion into the city since it fell to the militants in May. (AP Photo/Osama Sami)
Smoke rises from Islamic State positions following a U.S.-led coalition air strike as Iraqi security forces advance their position in Ramadi, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Osama Sami)

Government forces expect to dislodge Islamic State terrorists from the western Iraqi city of Ramadi within days, state media said on Wednesday morning, citing army Chief of Staff Lt. General Othman al-Ghanemi.

If Ramadi is captured, it will be the second major city after Tikrit to be retaken from Islamic State in Iraq. It would provide a major psychological boost to Iraqi security forces after the terrorist group seized a third of Iraq, a major OPEC oil producer and U.S ally, last year.

“The good news of the complete liberation of Ramadi will be announced in the coming days,” the Iraqia channel cited the officer as saying.

Iraq’s armed forces began advancing on Tuesday on the last district held by the militants in the center of Ramadi, a Sunni Muslim city on the river Euphrates some 100 km (60 miles) west of Baghdad that they captured in May.

Progress has been slow because the government wants to rely entirely on its own troops and not use Shi’ite militias in order to avoid rights abuses such as occurred after the recapture of the city of Tikrit from the terrorists in April.

Islamic State also controls Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and Falluja, which lies between Ramadi and Baghdad, as well as large areas of Syria – the core of which it has declared to be a caliphate.

On other fronts, eight senior Islamic State commanders were killed in air strikes by the Iraqi air force, Iraqi state media reported, citing a military statement.

“F-16 planes killed dozens of terrorists, including eight senior commanders of Daesh in strikes on Hawija and Anbar,” said the statement, using a derogatory name for Islamic State and not giving further details.