Iraqi security forces have recaptured a section of the city of Ramadi, which had been held by IS militants. The seizure of the city district has been seen as a major step forward for counteroffensive efforts against IS.
Iraqi officials confirmed on Tuesday that security forces have retaken a large district in Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar province, from "Islamic State" (IS) militants.
"Today, our forces completely cleared the Al-Tameem area after a fierce battle against Daesh gunmen," said Sabah al-Noman, the spokesman for Iraq's counterterrorism service, to news agency AFP, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
The IS fighters "had no choice except to surrender or fight and they were completely destroyed," Noman said.
The US-led coalition fighting IS backed Iraqi forces by carrying out more than 45 airstrikes in the area over the past week. On Monday, coalition aircraft targeted IS fighting positions, supplies and vehicles, as well as a mortar system, according to a statement on the airstrikes.
"The liberation of Al-Tameem will greatly help in speeding up the liberation of the city of Ramadi," Rasool said.
With IS still in control of the central part of Ramadi, Iraqi forces now need to coordinate efforts in the north and newly reclaimed southwest to attack the remaining militants.
"The process of removing bombs from the houses and roads has begun," Irzayij said. IS militants tend to plant bombs in occupied areas so that they can continue to kill security personnel and civilians even after they have left the area.
Large amounts of weapons and supplies have already been found, as well as vehicles rigged with explosives.
IS captured Ramadi in May of this year, in the largest blow to Iraqi forces since the fall of Mosul the year before. Following Ramadi's capture, the Iraqi government announced it would launch a counteroffensive, but progress to reclaim the area has been slow until now.
rs/jil (AP, AFP)