News / Middle East

    Iraqi PM Visits Ramadi After Key Victory

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, raises an Iraqi flag in the city of Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, after it was retaken by the security forces, Dec. 29, 2015.
    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, center, raises an Iraqi flag in the city of Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, after it was retaken by the security forces, Dec. 29, 2015.
    Chris HannasMike Richman

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Ramadi Tuesday after government forces recaptured the government compound in the key western city.

    Iraqi state television reported that Abadi was in Ramadi but offered no other details.  But an Iraqi military officer told the Associated Press the prime minister met with security and provincial officials.

    Iraqi forces worked Tuesday to clear Islamic State fighters from Ramadi, defusing and clearing bombs from streets and buildings as sporadic clashes took place on the outskirts of the city.  

    The fall of Ramadi to Islamic State in May was a big blow to Prime Minister Abadi’s government and military as they struggled in their campaign to push back against the militants.

    But after Monday’s success in the latest offensive to retake Ramadi, Abadi went on Iraqi television to declare 2016 will be the year Islamic State will be driven out of Iraq. He said the country’s second largest city is the army’s next target.

    "We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal final blow to Daesh [Islamic State]."

    Members of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service flash the "V" for victory sign, Dec. 29, 2015 in the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, after recapturing it from the Islamic State.
    Members of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service flash the "V" for victory sign, Dec. 29, 2015 in the city of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, after recapturing it from the Islamic State.

    IS controls Mosul

    Islamic State has held Mosul since June 2014 when the group swept through large areas of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria.

    Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and pro-government militias were long stalled in their efforts to retake territory, but have made recent gains.

    Kurdish forces have also had success in clearing areas north and east of Mosul, yet have been careful not to move beyond their traditional territory.

    Iraqi Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari expressed the need for the Kurds to help retake Mosul, a largely Sunni city, telling Reuters the Peshmerga fighters are a “major force” and will be necessary in that battle.  Zebari said given the size of the area that must be secured around the city, the operation may also require local Sunni fighters and Iran-backed militias.

    Raising the flag

    In Ramadi, Jubilant Iraqi fighters raised the flag over the government headquarters in the center of city on Monday, while others waved their weapons as they danced and paraded through the streets in the capital of Anbar province.

    A member of the Iraqi security forces raise the Iraqi flag in the Anbar police headquarters after their entry into the center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, Dec. 28, 2015.
    A member of the Iraqi security forces raise the Iraqi flag in the Anbar police headquarters after their entry into the center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, Dec. 28, 2015.

    Iraqi officials said the next step is to wipe out any pockets of resistance and clear Ramadi and its surroundings of the countless mines and booby traps Islamic State left behind.

    The number of dead and wounded on both sides was unclear and most civilians had taken cover inside a hospital.

    US reaction

    The United States, while hailing the success Iraqi forces have shown in Ramadi, stopped short Monday of declaring the city liberated.

    "The continued progress of the Iraqi security forces in the fight to retake Ramadi is a testament to their courage and determination, and our shared commitment to push ISIL [Islamic State] out of its safe-havens," the White House said.

    WATCH: Victories Over IS Are Mounting, US Says

    Victories Over IS Are Mounting, US Saysi
    X
    Jeff Seldin
    December 30, 2015 1:28 AM
    Islamic State militants are still holed up in pockets of Ramadi, one day after Iraqi forces pushed them out of the city center. But the U.S. military is cautiously optimistic, calling the Iraqi victory “significant’ and suggesting it may be the start of something more. VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin reports from the Pentagon.

    Just as the White House did, Defense Secretary Ash Carter would only call Monday's developments in Ramadi "progress" in retaking the city.

    Secretary of State John Kerry said "the Iraqi military is fighting with determination, courage, and skill to dislodge the enemy and bring closer the day when the city can be returned to the families who have fled the terror of ISIL."

    Months of planning

    After months of preparation, Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes pushed into Ramadi's center last week in a concerted effort to recapture the city.

    The U.S. military said it carried out at least 29 airstrikes on Islamic State targets in the past week; three airstrikes hit near Ramadi from Sunday into Monday, wounding 12 IS fighters.

    Col. Steve Warren, U.S. spokesman for the anti-IS military operation, said that since May, the coalition had launched 630 airstrikes in and around Ramadi and trained some of the Iraqi forces that took the city back.

    City in ruins

    Video of Ramadi's city center and other nearby districts showed widespread destruction, and many neighborhoods appeared to be in ruins.

    One military commander told state TV that IS militants had booby-trapped many buildings and attacked his men with car bombs.

    Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Assadi says that his men made sacrifices and many gave up their lives in the bitter battle against Islamic State.

    James Denselow of the London-based Foreign Policy Center tells VOA that the success of the Ramadi operation will be measured by whether Sunni residents return to the city:

    “Ultimately, for Sunni residents to come back, they need to feel that there is a force there that will protect their interests. [That] there's no victor's justice. ... All these other things we've seen in the past in other liberated cities, and there are a huge number of different armed groups operating under different flags in Iraq at the moment, and that's not good for a united Iraq,” he said.

    But Denselow warns that the fact that “a relatively small number of ISIS fighters have been able to fend off a much larger force for so long with such a large level of destruction is a worrying portent of things to come.”

    VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin in Washington and Ed Yeranian in Cairo contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Solaris
    December 29, 2015 11:11 AM
    Obama waited throughout his presidency to see Sunnis tear Iraq down and now the Shiites victory means only one thing : Obama presidency is over, that should shape the course of 2016 elections.

    by: WildM
    December 29, 2015 11:06 AM
    Congratulations Iraqi Special Ops and the USA for training them how to win!

    by: williweb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
    December 29, 2015 11:01 AM
    Every place that has been liberated from IS is in total ruin, mostly just dead bodies and rubble. They cannot be driven from Iraq and Syria just to go and create mayhem somewhere else. They must be annihilated.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 29, 2015 12:15 PM
    Most of them are imported from Caucasus from e.g. Chechnya and Central Asia including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and many are from Turkey.

    Return of the ones from Caucasus and Central Asia to their countries is what is having Putin wanting to finish them off before their return to Russia and other Central Asian countries.

    by: Moses608 from: Kenya
    December 29, 2015 1:46 AM
    Good work.Bravo!!! Iraq army.But ISIS army commander killed in Salahuddin province and his cellphone checked do indicate that Turkey and those brutes called are one and same thing.Who knows soon your gains might be reversed.Iwish someone cautions Turkey..

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