June 20, 2018

Iraqi forces ‘seize key base in Ramadi from Isis’


Iraqi troops have regained control

of a government complex in Ramadi,
officials claimed, drawing closer
to ousting Islamic State militants
from the Sunni heartland city
conquered last summer.

Progress in the gruelling ground
offensive launched last week has
been slow, with the militants
entrenched in a city that remains
home to thousands of civilians
trapped in the midst of the

Taking control of the central

state buildings on Sunday, a site
conquered by Isis earlier this
year, brings Iraqi troops closer
to reversing an embarrassing
defeat that saw the capital of
Anbar province fall to a few
hundred fighters from the terror
group in May.

“By controlling the complex this
means that they have been defeated
in Ramadi,” Sabah al-Numani, a
spokesman for the government
forces, told Reuters. “The next
step is to clear pockets that
could exist here or there in the

However, a US defence official
said on Sunday that it was not
clear whether the complex had been

“We are unable to confirm at this
time whether or not they have
cleared the government center,” a
US military official told Reuters,
on condition of anonymity.

The assault has been led by
members of Iraq’s elite counter-
terrorism unit, who have taken the
lead in battling the militants and
circumventing the booby traps laid
down by Isis fighters throughout
the city.

“I think the liberation of the
government complex will be the
falling domino that leads to the
fall of the rest of the
districts,” said Hisham al-
Hashimi, an Iraqi expert who
advises the government on Isis.

The expected loss of Ramadi would
be the latest in a series of
defeats for Isis in recent months
in both Iraq and Syria, which has
prompted the group’s leader and
self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi, to issue a rare audio
recording meant to reassure his

In November Isis lost the city of
Sinjar, the ancestral homeland of
the Yazidi minority, to an
offensive led by the Kurdish
peshmerga and backed by US
warplanes. Kurdish forces are also
working to sever the militants’
supply lines between Syria and

Meanwhile, across the border,
Kurdish paramilitaries have
conquered large swaths of northern
Syria from the terror group,
drawing closer to their de facto
capital of Raqqa.

The militants have not been
completely ousted from Ramadi,
however, and they still hold
Mosul, the capital of Nineveh
province in the north, a battle
that has been repeatedly delayed.

General Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of
the Anbar military operations,
told AP that the advance had been
hampered by suicide bombers,
snipers and booby traps.

Ramadi carries crucial symbolic
value. Anbar was once the scene of
the “Sunni Awakening” campaign
during the US occupation, which
recruited local Sunnis to fight
against al-Qaida in Iraq, the
precursor of Isis.

The fall of the province’s capital
to the militants was a sign of how
far Iraq’s unravelling as a nation
state had come since the overthrow
in 2003 of Saddam Hussein’s

The fighting in Anbar has
displaced millions of Iraqis, with
many others still trapped within
the city, risking their use as
human shields by Isis fighters who
have repeatedly called on them to
remain within the caliphate’s

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