Ramadi, Iraq – Iraqi security forces recovered control of a large part of the city Ramadi, officials said on Tuesday. The district has been under the Islamic State militants’ control. This represents a significant advance in their counteroffensive against the Islamic group jihadists.

The operation, supported by U.S. airstrikes, had been developed for weeks. First, the army dropped leaflets over the center, warning residents to leave in anticipation of an operation to liberate Anbar (of which Ramadi is the capital) on Monday. The US-led coalition against IS said it had carried out six air strikes, targeting the group and hitting two ISIS tactical units, destroying weaponry, ammunition and supply caches, buildings and a vehicle belonging to the group. Finally, after a fierce battle where officers targeted ISIS militants from three sides in a 24-hour period, the operation was overtaken.

Iraqi soldiers firing at ISIS positions in Anbar province on Tuesday. Iraq’s army is fighting to recapture the city from the jihadists. Credit: Getty Images

The Iraqi Cabinet said in a statement that their forces had managed to recapture the Anbar Operations command center inside the city of Ramadi. The center had been used by ISIS as a stronghold to carry out parts of its military missions. A spokesman for an Iraqi counterterrorism unit said that while much of the former operations center had been destroyed by IS fighters, the Iraqi flag had been raised above one of the remaining buildings.

Also, the forces managed to retake the Al-Tameem area on the southwestern side of the city after a fierce battle against the Islamic State. Al-Tameem is located in the southwest of IS-held central. Iraqi forces now need to make advances on the northern side in order to attack the jihadists from both sides.

Even though Iraq forces have managed to retake more than half of Ramadi, they still haven’t been able to completely expel Islamic State militants from the city, which is fastened with explosives and has a significant civilian population.

“It’s a major victory today. Now we are in the center. It’s only a matter of time before we announce the liberation of the city,” Maj. Gen. Ismail al-Mahlawi, who leads the Anbar command said.

Al-Mahlawi added that there’s still a long battle to fight. Even though their main purpose is to liberate the city and that the liberation of Al-Tameem would greatly help in speeding the purpose, they could not give a specific time they could do it. Among the many difficulties the force has to face, there is the fact that IS had destroyed many of the bridges.

Unstable parts of Ramadi, located 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Baghdad, had been held by anti-government fighters since the beginning of 2014, but IS did not succeed in completely overrunning it until May this year. A major territory in Anbar, which stretches from the borders with Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to the western approach to Baghdad was overrun by IS in June 2014.

Source: Washington Post