“Iraqi troops have pushed deeper into the heart of the last remaining district held by Islamic State in the city of Ramadi, despite being slowed by bombs and booby traps. Soldiers advanced overnight in the Hoz neighborhood that houses the provincial government compound. The counter-terrorism forces are within 800 meters (0.5 mile) from the government complex, advancing by about 1 km in the past day. Air strikes helped detonate explosive devices and booby-trapped houses, facilitating our advance.”, operations command spokesman Brigadier Yahya Rasool reported on December 26, 2015.
Special operation commander Sami al-Aridhi said the plan is “to liberate all of Ramadi from three sides”.
The Iraqi government forces are backed by air support from an international coalition led by the United States. Shi’ite militia units backed by Iran, which have played a major part in other government offensives, have been kept away from the battlefield in Ramadi to avoid angering Sunni Muslim residents.
Recapturing Ramadi, which fell to the militants in May 2015, would be one of the most important victories achieved by Iraq’s armed forces since Islamic State swept across a third of the country in 2014.
After Ramadi, the army plans to retake the northern city of Mosul, the biggest population center under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria.
Dislodging the militants from Mosul would effectively abolish their state structure in Iraq and deprive them of a major source of funding, which comes partly from oil and partly from fees and taxes on residents.
“The liberation of dear Mosul will be achieved with the cooperation and unity of all Iraqis after the victory in Ramadi,” says Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.