Iraqi Army In First Success Against Islamic State
Iraqi flag raised in parts of Ramadi
NEW DELHI: Iraqi forces have retaken a former government compound in Ramadi, which had fallen to the Islamic State.
An Iraqi military spokesperson said that the complex was "under complete control" and there was no sign of IS (also known as Daesh) fighters. "By controlling the complex this means that they have been defeated in Ramadi. The next step is to clear pockets that could exist here or there in the city,” military spokesperson Sabah al-Numani, told Reuters.
The Iraqi army heralded the defeat of Daesh in the city, which it has been trying to win back for months.
The victory against the group in retaking the complex, albeit small in the larger fight against the militant group, represents the first real success of Iraqi forces against the militant group in the last 18 months.
Launching the ground offensive, however, took months, with troops receiving support from a US-led coalition in the form of arms, training and airstrikes.
Gen Ismail al-Mahlawi, head of Anbar military operations, told Associated Press that the fighting had been tough given IS's use of suicide bombers, snipers and booby traps. No toll his been provided regarding the number of casualties faced by the Iraqi army in the fight.
Ramadi is a mainly Sunni Arab city about 55 miles (90km) west of Baghdad. The sectarian nature of the city made the fight even more difficult, as the government decided not to use Shia peshmerga forces that had helped it recapture Tikrit for fear of increasing sectarian tensions.
As such, Ramadi is the first city recaptured by the Iraqi army itself, without relying on militia forces.
The government, led by a Shi’ite Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, said Ramadi would be handed over to local police, a Sunni tribal force once it was secured as a measure meant to win over the community to the fight against Islamic State. The Iraqi government had come under the scanner, under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for stoking sectarian tensions -- with the exacerbated Shia-Sunni divisions being traced by many as a reason for the rise and expansion of the Islamic State.
“We have trained hundreds of tribal fighters, their role will be holding the ground,” said Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the joint operations command told Reuters. “Seeing their own tribes responsible for security will be a relief for the civilians” and will help convince those who have been displaced to return to the city, he added.
As reported by Reuters, Anbar provincial council member Falih al-Essawi called on the government to restore services to Ramadi quickly and start rebuilding the city to allow the return of the displaced. “It will not be easy to convince families to return to a city that lacks basic human needs,” he told Reuters.
With the success in Ramadi, all eyes are on Mosul as officials and the US-led coalition hope that Iraqi forces are able to translate the victory to recapturing Mosul from the militant group. “The smooth victory in Ramadi should be happy news for the residents of Mosul,” spokesman Numani told Reuters.
Further, Islamic State fighters also suffered a setback in Kirkuk province, as Kurdish fighters drove them out of the town of Hawija. The clashes in Hawija occurred on Friday night, the Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported.
“Kurdish and American commandos raided an Islamic State (ISIS) base near Hawija Friday night, killing a number of militants and capturing others, Kirkuk police said. Brigadier Sarhad Qadir of the Kirkuk police told Rudaw that at 11:00 pm Friday night Kurdish commandos backed by American special forces stormed an ISIS court in the town of Riyadh east of Hawija where they killed a number of militants in the ensuing firefight. Brig. Qadir said some militants were captured in the raid and Hussein Umair Assafi, a commander of the radical group was killed. He added that more information on the raid is expected to be released by the special operations team. It is believed the raid was to free Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers from ISIS captivity. Brig. Qadir did not say if any Peshmerga was rescued. Helicopter gunships participated in the raid and flew the commandos to the ISIS base. This is the second special commando operation against ISIS in two months. In a similar operation in October American and Kurdish special forces stormed an ISIS prison in Hawija and freed 70 hostages,” the agency reported.