Spokesman: Iraqi Soldiers Close to Retaking Ramadi
by VOA News December 26, 2015
An Iraqi army spokesman says Iraqi troops have pushed deeper into the heart of Ramadi, where they have been engaged in a weeklong offensive to take back a government complex from Islamic State militants after losing control of the city seven months ago.
Recapturing the complex would tip the balance in Ramadi, once again giving the army control of the key city, which is the capital of Anbar province. But the neighborhood surrounding the complex is dotted with landmines.
The spokesman said Saturday that soldiers have used airstrikes to detonate some of the explosives and help them gain ground. He said they are now within a few hundred meters of the government complex.
But he declined to give a time frame for the final push to oust the militants from the city center, where more than 100 extremists are believed to be lodged.
Iraqi military officials said IS terrorists are trying to slow the Iraqi advance by using suicide bombers, booby traps and snipers, plus civilians as human shields.
It is not clear how many civilians are left in the area. The spokesman said most residents have taken shelter in a nearby hospital.
Iraq's military said earlier in the week that government forces expect to be in control of the city in a few days. This is the most significant incursion into Ramadi by Iraqi forces since the city fell to IS terrorists in May.
Coalition warplanes have been targeting Ramadi for several weeks with dozens of airstrikes, including targets on the outer edges of the city on Tuesday.
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.
Syrian dam retaken
Meanwhile, in Syria, a U.S-backed alliance of Syrian Kurds and Arab rebel groups, backed by U.S. coalition planes, captured a dam Saturday from Islamic State fighters, cutting a main supply route of the militants across the Euphrates, alliance spokesman Colonel Talal Selo said.
The rapid advance overnight by thousands of troops from the Democratic Forces of Syria had brought the dam, 22 kilometers (15 miles) upstream from the militants' de facto capital Raqqa, under their control on Saturday afternoon, Selo said.
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