Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Iraqi Forces Fighting ISIS for Ramadi Push Toward City Center

By OMAR AL-JAWOSHY, SEWELL CHAN and KAREEM FAHIM, NYT
DEC. 22, 2015

BAGHDAD — An assault by Iraqi forces to wrest control of Ramadi from the Islamic State reached the edges of the city center Tuesday evening, in a battle that was months in the making and a critical test for the Iraqi government.

Accompanied by heavy American airstrikes, the push into the city by a mix of Iraqi soldiers, police officers and Sunni tribal fighters began overnight. Iraqi officials described the assault as a fierce urban battle, with their forces facing car bombs, sniper fire and explosive traps. Around 300 Islamic State fighters are believed to be hunkered down in the northern reaches of the city.

If Iraqi forces manage to reassert control over Ramadi — the provincial capital of Anbar Province, in the Sunni Arab heartland — it would be the most important of a series of military setbacks for the Islamic State since its explosive expansion across Iraq that began with the capture of Mosul last year.

In early April this year, Iraqi forces and Shiite militias drove the Islamic State out of the city of Tikrit, and in October retook control of the northern city of Baiji and its oil refinery. Last month, Kurdish and Yazidi forces assaulted the northern city of Sinjar, driving out fighters with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

(More here.)

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