Iraqi security forces surround the government complex in central Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 28, 2015.
Pockets of jihadists may remain, but the army said it no longer faced any resistance in the city and that its main task was to defuse countless bombs and traps. He said the liberation of Mosul would be the final blow to the militant organization. It will be harder to recapture Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which the Islamic State seized in June 2014, stunning the world with its military strength.
He specifically praised the Shiite militia forces for liberating Ramadi, although his remarks contradicted earlier reports that such armed groups, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMG), did not play a role in taking back the Sunni city.
There was a celebratory atmosphere in Baghdad, where state television showed images of people dancing and letting off fireworks as they waved the Iraqi flag in the streets.
The US-led coalition, which includes major European and Arab powers, has been waging an air campaign against Islamic State positions in both Iraq and Syria since a third of Iraqi territory fell to the fighters in mid-2014.
The victory in Ramadi comes on the heels of operations that saw Iraqi forces retake Baiji, north of Baghdad, and Sinjar, the hub of the Yazidi minority in the northeast of the country. The Ramadi battle was at least a partial vindication for Iraq’s army, which humiliated itself by abandoning Mosul as the Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim group, advanced.
Tikrit was heavily damaged in the fighting to liberate the city and looted by predominately Shia militias thereafter.
ISIS still controls the rest of Anbar province, however. Since then, Obama has increased the level of USA troops in Iraq to 3,500, some of whom have worked to retrain and reorganize the Iraqi forces.
“The Iraqi counter terrorism forces have raised the Iraqi flag over the government complex”. However, Maj. Gen. Ismail Mahalawi, head of operations in Iraq’s western Anbar province, later told reporters that the militants still controlled parts of the city.
On Sunday, Mohammed al-Bidhani, a spokesman for War Media Network affiliated with the Iraqi Defense Ministry, said that Daesh militants had fled government buildings. Ramadi controls a key supply route to the Islamic State stronghold in Mosul, as well as a road to Baghdad.
“The expulsion of ISIL by Iraqi security forces, supported by our global coalition, is a significant step forward in the campaign to defeat this barbaric group and restore Iraq’s territorial sovereignty”, added Carter in a statement. The capture of Ramadi would be a major victory for Iraqi troops, but would also test the government’s ability to bridge the country’s sectarian divide.
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