Iraqi forces enter key area in Islamic State-held Ramadi

Iraqi forces entered an area housing a government compound in the centre of Ramadi Saturday, part of a major offensive aimed at dislodging the Islamic State terrorist militia from the western city, an Iraqi official said.

"Security forces entered the area of Huz at dawn," a spokesman for Anbar province's police, Yasser al-Dulaimi, said.

"They are now engaged in fierce clashes with Daesh near the government complex," he added, using an Arabic acronymn for Islamic State.

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar, which stretches from the outskirts of the capital, Baghdad, to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Large areas of the mostly Sunni province are held by Islamic State.

"Elements of Daesh are scattered around Huz and inside booby-trapped buildings. We are trying hard to force these elements out of the buildings," al-Dulaimi told dpa.

At least 20 Islamic State fighters have been killed so far in the clashes in the area, according to the official, who did not give figures about possible casualties among government troops and allied tribal fighters.

On Wednesday, Iraq's army chief of staff Othman al-Ghanmy said that Ramadi would be recaptured "within days."

However, other officials say that the military's advance inside the city has been slowed by the jihadists' booby-trap defences in urban areas. 

Ramadi fell to the radical Sunni Islamic State in May in an embarrassing setback to the US-backed Iraqi forces.

The jihadists remain in control of much of Sunni Arab northern and western Iraq, despite the US-led air campaign launched in the aftermath of their lightning advances in the country in mid-2014.

Last update: Sat, 26/12/2015 - 15:49

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