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Iraqi Forces Pound IS Militants Near Ramadi

  • VOA News

FILE - Iraqi security forces defend their positions against an Islamic State group attack in Husaybah, 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Ramadi, Iraq, June 15, 2015.

FILE - Iraqi security forces defend their positions against an Islamic State group attack in Husaybah, 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Ramadi, Iraq, June 15, 2015.

Iraq's army and allied paramilitaries attacked Islamic State group positions Tuesday around Ramadi in their latest push to recapture the Anbar capital from the jihadists, commanders said.

"The Iraqi army and the Hashed al-Shaabi are pounding IS positions with rockets and mortar rounds east, west and south of Ramadi," a senior army officer said.

Iraqi authorities announced a major offensive to "liberate Anbar" on Monday, hours after the U.S.-led coalition launched 29 air strikes near Ramadi.

Pentagon spokesman Major Roger Cabiness said the coalition was stepping up airstrikes to match the increased tempo of Iraqi military operations.

The Iraqi operation includes Iraqi troops as well as Shi'ite and Sunni fighters.

Iraq's government has made Anbar a priority since the Islamic State group seized Ramadi during a May offensive that prompted new criticism of the military and its response to the militants.

U.S.-led coalition forces stepped up their operation to assist that Iraqi goal, with 29 of 39 air strikes in Iraq Sunday targeting the area around Ramadi in Anbar province. A Pentagon statement released Monday said the air strikes damaged 67 Islamic State staging areas, excavators, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles.

In another development, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and the U.N. Refugee Agency released a report Monday saying 15,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 30,000 wounded since January 2014.

The report said civilians in areas under the control of Islamic State face a dire situation. "Civilians continue to be murdered, often in grim public spectacles," the report said.

Ramadi is about 125 kilometers west of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, where multiple bomb attacks Sunday killed at least 29 people and wounded more than 80 others.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but similar waves of bombings have been attributed to Islamic State.

The militants seized large areas of northern and western Iraq last year, and their emergence coincided with a massive increase in civilian and military deaths in Iraq. Last year, those deaths jumped 82 percent from the level of 2013, which itself was more than double the year before.

This year the violence is even worse, as the military and militias try to regain territory from the militants on the ground and the United States leads a coalition campaign of airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group.

Through June, nearly 7,800 people had been killed, according to U.N. data, marking an increase of more than 600 deaths through the same period last year.

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