Iraqi forces are on the verge of retaking western Ramadi as they battle the last jihadists holed up in the center of the city. Coalition air forces have continued to bomb 'Islamic State' targets.
Fighting continued to rage in Ramadi on Thursday as Iraqi troops battled to retake the city from "Islamic State" (IS) control. Fear of trapped civilians used as human shields by jihadists has slowed down their advance.
The fighting has mostly taken place around the former government headquarters, a key position that the government forces are trying to retake.
"The Iraqi forces are in Hoz neighborhood… about 500 meters away from the governmental complex," an army lieutenant-colonel told AFP news agency on Thursday.
"They are advancing very cautiously," said Sabah Karhout, the head of the western Anbar province, adding that the militants had planted booby traps and explosive devices around the area.
"There is stiff resistance, there's been fierce fighting over the last 24 hours in the southern part of Ramadi city," Colonel Steve Warren, a spokesman for the US-led coalition against IS, said.
At least 22 soldiers were wounded on Thursday, an official at Abu Ghraib hospital in west of Baghdad reported.
The IS, however, said a higher number of casualties were inflicted on the security forces. It said that one of its suicide bombers targeted a police station in the area and killed several police officers. The claim was denied by Iraqi authorities.
Iraqi officials said that about 400 IS fighters were left behind in Ramadi.
A matter of days
Meanwhile, US-led coalition air forces pounded IS positions on Thursday.
State television said that the city would likely be cleared of militants within days, citing Iraq's army chief of staff Lieutenant General Othman al-Ghanemi.
"In the coming days will be announced the good news of the complete liberation of Ramadi," reported Iraqi TV.
Government forces began on Tuesday the final phase of an operation to clear Ramadi of IS fighters who had gained full control of the city in May.
shs/jm (AFP, Reuter, dpa)