Iraq forces extend Ramadi control, rescue civilians

Haider al-Abadi
Haider al-Abadi

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi walks with his security detail in the city of Ramadi, December 29, 2015.

Iraqi forces on Friday pushed out of central Ramadi to extend their grip on the city, sweeping neighborhoods for pockets of militants to flush out and trapped civilians to evacuate.

Federal forces declared victory Sunday in the battle for Ramadi, which was months in the making, but the Anbar provincial capital has not been fully secured yet.

“Our security forces launched an operation from Khaldiya, east of Ramadi, and managed to liberate the College of Agriculture,” said Hamid al-Dulaimi, Ramadi district mayor.

“They are clearing several other neighbourhoods,” he said.

Hadi Irzayij, the Anbar police chief, said the security forces detained 30 suspected Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group fighters “who were attempting to flee Ramadi by blending in with civilians.”

He said they were detained Thursday and would be interrogated.

“We are following a plan put together in a way that will prevent casualties in the ranks of the security forces,” the police chief said.

ISIS, which took full control of Ramadi in May 2015, had planted thousands of explosive devices on roads and in buildings to defend the city.

Clearing operations are led by Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism service (CTS), along with army, police and local tribal forces, as well as aerial backing from the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.

The militants are no longer in a position to fight back for Ramadi but many managed to pull out of last week’s main battle and redeploy in eastern Ramadi or nearby rural areas.

A colonel in CTS confirmed that around 30 ISIS militants had been arrested as they tried to slip out of Ramadi and described some of them as senior local leaders.

“What we are doing now is saving the trapped families,” Majed Mohammed, a CTS major, told AFP.

He said their task was complicated by the high number of roadside bombs laid by the jihadists and the fact that ISIS was opening fire on civilians trying to escape.


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