Iraqi troops advance, re-claim ISIS stronghold near Ramadi

Following over six months of punishing fighting, the Iraqi army has liberated the vital district of Tamim to the southwest of the city of Ramadi.

Ramadi is approximately 55 miles to the west of Baghdad and has been controlled by ISIS terrorists since mid-May.

The capture of Tamim by Iraqi troops virtually encircles the ISIS terrorists remaining in Ramadi. Iraqi troops re-took Palestinian Bridge last month after intensive fighting.

“It’s a matter of days to control other districts in the heart of the city.  We have retaken key districts like Tamim in the west, Albu Farraj and Albu Ziyab in the north, Tash and Anbar University in the south,” one Iraqi army source told the BBC.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have been assisting Iraqi troops on the ground and have proved significant in paving the way for a string of successes earned by the Iraqi army against ISIS.

Amid fears of a bloodbath and the city’s population used as human shields, the Iraqi military began to broadcast messages warning the inhabitants of Ramadi to leave the city.

Similarly, propaganda leaflets issuing warnings to citizens to exit Ramadi were dropped over the center of the city which remains under ISIS control.

“Daesh fighters are becoming more hostile and suspicious. They prevent us from leaving houses. Everyone who goes out against orders is caught and investigated. We feel we’re living inside a sealed casket,” said Abu Ahmed, who escaped from Ramadi.

The Iraqi army lost control of Ramadi in May after suffering a series of setbacks which led Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to express pessimism with the Iraqi army and state the Iraqis showed no will to fight ISIS.

Carter’s assessment drew a sharp rebuke from Iraqi officials who directed their ire at the U.S. and blamed the loss of Ramadi on Washington for refusing to distribute proper military equipment to Iraqi forces, poor intelligence and a refusal by coalition forces to conduct airstrikes on ISIS military formations.

On Wednesday, as the Iraqi army is poised to re-take Ramadi, the Pentagon announced it is prepared to send both ground advisors and helicopter gunships to accommodate Iraqi troops in the final push to re-capture the beleaguered city.

Mentioning the moderate gains scored by Iraqi troops around Ramadi during an appearance in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter stated:

“The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi Army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers, if circumstances dictate and if requested by Prime Minister Abadi.”

 

[Reuters] [BBC] [Photo courtesy Business Insider]