Iraqi Troops Advance Into Ramadi in Anti-IS Offensive
by VOA News December 22, 2015
Iraqi troops advanced Tuesday into the center of Ramadi in a fierce push to reclaim the city they lost to Islamic State (IS) militants seven months ago.
Sabah al-Numani, a spokesman for Iraq's counterterrorism service, said the fighting was happening in neighborhoods surrounding a government complex with support from the air force. Iraqi troops are removing roadside bombs as they try to push forward.
Numani told the French news agency the city will be cleared in 72 hours.
U.S.-led coalition warplanes have carried out airstrikes on IS targets on the outskirts of the city.
A U.S. military spokesman, Army Colonel Steve Warren, said those strikes continue to show IS fighters they have nowhere to hide.
The loss of Ramadi in May was a major setback for the Iraqi government and the army. The effort to retake the city, located 100 kilometers west of the capital, Baghdad, has taken months with fighting on the outskirts and work to cut off militant supply lines running into Ramadi.
The operation to recapture the city was launched in earnest last month.
Iraqi forces have been backed by a U.S.-led coalition attacking IS targets from the air as they try to recapture the large areas of northern and western territory the militants seized in mid-2014. In the past 10 days, coalition warplanes have carried out more than 30 airstrikes in the Ramadi area.
The Iraqi government has touted its ability to handle the ground fighting on its own and has asked for more air support and supplies to help defeat the militants.
Last week, during an unannounced visit to Iraq, U.S Defense Secretary Ash Carter emphasized to Iraqi leaders the importance of building on their success to 'complete the recapture of Ramadi, and then continue the campaign with an important goal of retaking Mosul as soon as possible.'
'The United States is willing to do more in association to support the Iraqi security forces in that mission,' said Carter.
Mosul remains firmly in the hands of IS militants.
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