The Iraqi military was preparing on Friday to make a final push to take back the Islamic State group-controlled city of Ramadi in central Iraq. While troops were able to make their way into the center of the town four days earlier, sweeping aside a tame ISIS resistance, soldiers are now being faced with booby traps and sniper fire from a far more resolute group of fighters that have hunkered down inside the city’s main government building.
If government forces can dislodge ISIS from the city it would be both a symbolic and strategic win for the Iraqi army, which had lost the city to the terror group in May. It would also represent a base of operations for future missions to take back the ISIS-held city of Fallujah which is around 70 miles east of Ramadi.
"We are facing many obstacles, mostly snipers and car bombs," said one Iraqi fighter, Lt. Bashar Hussein, from a position in Dhubbat neighbourhood, just south of Hoz, according to a Agence France-Presse report.
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An Iraqi general, who wished to remain anonymous, also said that troops had moved to within 300 meters of the government building. "Daesh (ISIS) resistance got stiffer as Iraqi forces moved closer to the government compound," he said.
The push to reclaim Ramadi is part of a broader mission launched by the U.S. and Iraqi government’s to push ISIS out of Iraq and contain it in Syria. To that end, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also announced Friday that troops will move to reclaim the northern city of Mosul.
“The liberation of dear Mosul will be achieved with the cooperation and unity of all Iraqis after the victory in Ramadi,” he said in a statement published online by state media, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The battle for Ramadi has been viewed as a testing ground for Iraqi troops that have been retrained by the U.S. over the last six months.