Iraqi troops consolidate liberated neighborhoods, prepare for decisive offensive to recapture major city from ISIS terrorists.
Soldiers were clearing bombs from roads and homes in districts of Ramadi they had already taken since launching their assault on the city on Tuesday, state TV said.
Successfully recapturing Ramadi, a provincial capital in the fertile Euphrates River valley just two hours’ drive from Baghdad, would be one of the most important victories achieved by Iraq’s armed forces against ISIS.
Ramadi, capital of mainly Sunni Muslim Anbar province, was ISIS’s biggest prize of 2015.
The Baghdad government has long said it intended to recapture Ramadi before launching an offensive against Mosul, the largest city in Iraq’s north and ISIS’s main stronghold in the country.
Concern that civilians are still living in the areas held by the militants is slowing the troops’ advance, the authorities say. Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said the militants are using civilians as human shields.
State TV report that armed forces had finished securing the Hay al-Dhubbat neighborhood that it seized on Tuesday. The ultimate target of the government is to retake Mosul, a city with a pre-war population of close to 2 million.
“The liberation of dear Mosul will be achieved with the cooperation and unity of all Iraqis after the victory in Ramadi,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement on the state media website on Friday.
In a Friday sermon to rally the nation, read by an aide, Iraq’s top Shiite Muslim cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani called on the government to make the fight against ISIS its top priority.
“To recover all the land from Daesh, to rebuild the residential areas, to return the displaced person are top priorities for everybody, foremost for the government’s decision makers,” said Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s representative Ahmed al-Safi, in a sermon in the holy Shiite city of Kerbala, south of Baghdad, broadcast on state TV.
On Friday, fighting continue in Ramadi, but mostly security forces worked to consolidate their positions and clear areas, which they have already claimed, of explosives and militants.