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Iraqi forces to drive out 'IS' from Ramadi in days

December 23, 2015

Amid a final offensive to reclaim the city, state TV said the militant group will likely be cleared from the city in days. The UK air force has also joined in the operation, providing air support for Iraqi ground troops.

Iraqi soldiers advance on Ramadi
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

Iraqi forces continued operations on Wednesday to retake Ramadi, the capital city of the Iraq's largest province Anbar, from the "Islamic State" militant group.

State television said that the city would likely be cleared of militant forces 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 Iraqia TV.

Government forces on Tuesday began the final phase of an operation to clear the city of the "Islamic State," which had gained full control of it in May.

The operation began at dawn, when units crossed the Euphrates river using a bridge rebuilt by military engineers and a floating structure.

Iraqi intelligence estimated that no more than 300 militants remained in the city's center before the offensive began.

However, several militants reportedly escaped the city as government forces approached.

"Dozens of 'Daesh' members have withdrawn from the city center towards Sufiya and Sichariyah," east of Ramadi, reported AFP news agency citing Ibrahim al-Fahdawi, who heads the Khaldiya district security committee. "Daesh" is an Arabic acronym for the militant group.

Meanwhile, the UK government said that the Royal Air Force provided Iraqi ground troops with aerial support during the operations.

"With Iraqi troops conducting ground assaults on Daesh positions in Ramadi on December 22, two pairs of RAF Tornados and a Reaper, provided the Iraqis with continuous close air support alongside other coalition aircraft," said a statement the British defense ministry.

Iraqi forces are progressing slowly to prevent civilian casualties.

ls/jil (Reuters, AFP, dpa)