Soldiers in the Iraqi Army. AP file photo
By Govand Mustafa
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— A top Iraqi official told Rudaw on Saturday the deployment of joint military forces to recapture the besieged city of Ramadi is complete as more than 10,000 troops from the police and army have been mobilized for the long-awaited offensive.
General Jaafar Saddam from the Iraqi national police force told Rudaw the offensive will be “decisive” and aims to liberate parts of the city that are currently under Islamic State control.
ISIS forces captured Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, in early May. The jihadists overran additional swaths of land in central Iraq after the offensive. Iraqi troops backed by local tribal fighters and Shiite militias have been trying to regain control of the city since then.
Control of neighborhoods in Ramadi has changed hands between the insurgents and Iraqi forces amid fierce daily clashes.
Dozens of Iraqi troops were killed on Saturday near the city in ambushes and bombings, said senior officials from Anbar.
“ISIS militants attack Husaibiya district in eastern Ramadi almost daily but have been pushed back by our forces,” Saddam said, adding that dozens of militants were also killed in ground attacks and airstrikes since Friday.
Coalition airstrikes targeted ISIS sites in more than 11 cities over the weekend, a statement issued by the United States-led coalition forces said Saturday, reporting that 27 airstrikes were carried out in both Iraq and Syria to “degrade ISIS capabilities.”
The Iraqi military in July launched an offensive to retake the predominantly Sunni-populated Anbar province, which is considered essential for pushing ISIS out of Iraq. Anbar covers a vast area from Baghdad to the Syrian border.
Hundreds of thousands of locals have fled the war-torn province to seek safer areas in the Kurdish-controlled north, exacerbating the ongoing refugee crisis in the Kurdistan region, where already more than 1.5 million refugees have fled.
Kurdish authorities hope the recapture of Ramadi will pave the way for the return of thousands of displaced families from the area who now live in the Kurdistan region.