RAMADI, Iraq, The Iraqi military on Tuesday recaptured a key district in the Isis-held city of Ramadi, capital of Iraq’s Anbar province.
Officials in Baghdad said Iraqi security forces seized the neighborhood of al-Tameen, which lies west of the city center on the other side of the Euphrates River.
IS forces sent Iraqi troops fleeing from the city in May, and the Iraqi military has since July been on the offensive in Anbar province. While there have been few territorial gains, security forces have been building up men and armor around Ramadi for weeks in anticipation of a major assault.
Late last month, Iraqi troops seized the Palestine Bridge, on the Euphrates River northwest of the city, cutting off the militants from other strongholds in Iraq and Syria.
“It’s a matter of days to control other districts in the heart of the city,” an Iraqi army source told the BBC. “We have retaken key districts like al-Tameen in the west, Albu Farraj and Albu Ziyab in the north, Tash and Anbar University in the south.”
The source said IS fighters had likely planted bombs amid roads and buildings throughout the center of Ramadi and that Iraqi troops were “using mobile military bridges to cross the Euphrates to the city center from the north and the west as the main bridges have been destroyed in the intense battles.”
The Iraqi military last week dropped leaflets over Ramadi warning residents to leave as troops prepare to take on an estimated 600 to 1,000 IS fighters defending the city. Meanwhile, Iraqi and U.S. warplanes, in preparation for the main ground assault, continually bomb IS positions in and around the city.
On Monday, IraqiNews.com quoted Maj. Gen. Ismail Mahlawi, head of operations in Anbar, as saying his forces directed coalition airstrikes that killed dozens of IS militants in northern Ramadi. The day before, Mahlawi said his troops — supported by airstrikes and artillery fire — repelled an IS attack in the city, killing up to 40 of the militants and destroying 14 car bombs.
An anonymous source told IraqiNews.com an airstrike in central Ramadi on Monday killed at least five civilians, including women and children.
The U.S. Department of Defense released a statement Tuesday tallying 20 airstrikes in Iraq, including six near Ramadi that struck two IS units and destroyed three ammunition caches, two supply caches, a sniper position, seven heavy machine guns, a mortar system, seven fighting positions, a vehicle, a tunnel entrance, four staging areas, a command and control node and 12 buildings used by the militant.
By Fred Lambert