Iraq is on its way to recapture Ramadi, a key city of symbolic and strategic importance from ISIS, using a temporary bridge and air support provided by the U.S.-led coalition.
The Iraqi military and Shiite paramilitary fighters crossed the Euphrates River into the provincial capital through the improvised bridge in their attempt to take back Ramadi on Tuesday morning. This city fell into ISIS’s hands in May and its capture has drawn criticism and questions on Iraq’s ability to protect its territory against the terror group – ISIS.
According to a military source, the joint Iraqi forces, with the U.S. led – coalition providing air support, staged an attack on ISIS in the southeastern district of Ramadi to take back the city center.
The Iraqi military further said that, the operation could be challenging and may last several days. The ISIS terror group are using citizens as their human shields, thus making it difficult for the Iraqi forces maneuver and speed up the efforts to retake central Ramadi, officials say.
The U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition has conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq since last year. Its involvement in this week-long assault to gain back control over this strategically important city west of Baghdad’s heavily fortified capital is very critical as it provided strong support to Iraq.
Both the Iraqi forces and the U.S. led – coalition are persuaded of the importance of this very recent assault. U.S. Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for the coalition said that “We are encouraged by this tactical development, which is a continuation of the progress we’ve seen over the last several weeks.”
But Warren added that “the Iraqi forces still had a long way to go before they are able to liberate Ramadi from ISIS.” “There is a lot of dense terrain here that needs to be negotiated,” Warren said. Even CNN could not confirm the Iraqi troops’ activities in Ramadi because of the difficulty in entering the area.
ISIS take over of Ramadi, which is the capital of Anbar province after a year of fighting drove tens of thousands of civilians to escape into neighboring areas. The U.N. refugee agency reported in October that more than 250,000 civilians are believed to have fled Ramadi since April.
Iraqi forces’ say that they will take back Ramadi from the ISIS. Ramadi is of strategic importance because “Anbar province is the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim population, and the city is very close to Baghdad.
Also, Ramadi’s fall in May into the hands of the ISIS symbolizes Iraq’s strength and the Iraqi’s “will to fight”, which had been questioned by the U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.
The ISIS, a Sunni Muslim terror organization claims and calls the captured areas in Iraq and Syria as its Islamic caliphate.
Iraqi said “they had already taken control part of Ramadi before the latest move.” On Tuesday, Iraqi forces have reached Humayrah, the southeastern Ramadi district. Then, they proceeded northward into the neighboring district of al-Thubat, where clashes are still ongoing the Iraqi military revealed.
In this military operation, officials declared at least 20 ISIS militants killed and dozens of ISIS vehicles destroyed on Tuesday alone. But the military source did not mention any casualties to the Iraqi security forces.