Iraqi forces have retaken large parts of Ramadi and the levant (ISIL) fighters, but officials expect the city’s “liberation” to take longer than initially expected.
Intense fighting between Iraqi forces – comprising the army, tribal groups and local police – and ISIL fighters continued on Thursday, two days after the latest operation to recapture the city began in earnest.
Iraqi intelligence believe there are only a few hundred rebels left within the city, but booby traps – containging explosive material capable of damaging 25-tonne vehicles – have slowed their progress.
Iraqi forces try to recapture Ramadi from ISIL
On Thursday afternoon, a number of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) exploded on al-Dhubaat Street in the city’s south, killing 10 Iraqi troops and injuring another 16.
A day earlier, Iraqi government and military officials said they expected the Anbar provincial capital to be liberated within about 72 hours, but that target appears to have been pushed back.
“Some leaders had said the liberation of the entire city will take 72 hours. Now leaders say they are [still] fighting and the liberation of Ramadi will take a longer time,” he said.
Our correspondent said Iraqi forces were being slowed significantly by snipers, IEDs and booby-trapped buildings.
Despite the setbacks, Iraqi officials remain confident.
“The plan is to encircle the areas and launch an attack from the centre,” Iraqi MP Mohammed Al-Ugaili.
“ISIL has lost the balance of power as it does not know which direction it’s being attacked by Iraqi forces.”
Iraqi forces have been backed by air strikes from the international coalition, led by the United States.
Ramadi, about 120km from the capital Baghdad, was captured by ISIL in May, but Iraqi forces have since managed to claw back some territory.
A counterattack by government forces on the centre of the Ramadi began in earnest on Tuesday.