An elite counter-terrorism force has entered the center of Ramadi controlled by 'Islamic State' fighters. There was no 'strong resistance' aside from snipers and suicide bombers, according to a security spokesman.
Iraqi armed forces crossed the Euphrates river on Tuesday, entering parts of Ramadi under the control of fighters with the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS) in a bid to dislodge the militant group from the capital city of Iraq's western province of Anbar.
"We went into the center of Ramadi from several fronts, and we began purging residential areas," said Iraq's counter-terrorism agency spokesman Sabah al-Numani.
"Our forces reached the Bakr neighborhood. We did not face strong resistance, only snipers and suicide bombers, and this is a tactic we expected," al-Numani told the AFP news agency.
The spokesman added that Iraqi military units in the city had "support from the air force" as well as US-led airstrikes. He added that the offensive against the militant group in Ramadi developed slowly for fears that they may use civilians as human shields.
Iraqi intelligence estimates that between 250 and 300 IS militants remain in the city.
The militant group also controls Iraq's second largest city Mosul, along with Fallujah.
However, they have lost several keys towns since government forces and fighters from the autonomous Kurdish region began anti-"Islamic State" operations.
Retaking Ramadi would offer a much-needed boost to Iraqi forces' morale, which has suffered since the militant group took over territories across Iraq and Syria in an astonishing military offensive.
In April, Tikrit was recaptured by government forces with the help of Shi'ite militias.
ls/jm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)