News / Middle East

    Iraqi Forces Find More IS 'Pockets of Resistance' in Ramadi

    Iraqi security forces gather near a temporary bridge built by the corps of engineers in the Iraqi army south of Ramadi, during a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Dec. 29, 2015, after government forces recaptured the city from the Islamic State jihadist group.
    Iraqi security forces gather near a temporary bridge built by the corps of engineers in the Iraqi army south of Ramadi, during a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Dec. 29, 2015, after government forces recaptured the city from the Islamic State jihadist group.

    Iraqi forces trying to clear Ramadi after seizing the city from Islamic State militants are meeting with heavier resistance than first anticipated.

    U.S. military officials initially said “the numbers are small” when asked about how many IS fighters were left in the city after Iraqi forces moved into key areas of Anbar’s provincial capital Monday. On Wednesday, however, officials said Iraqi forces were encountering “pockets of resistance” and sporadic attacks, indicating a larger presence.

    “They are still there,” a U.S. official told VOA on condition of anonymity. “They’re expanding their asymmetric tactics to buy more time and space.”

    The official would not say how many enemy fighters remained in Ramadi but indicated it was more than the few hundred thought to have been defending the city.

    The official also left open the possibility that the number of IS militants could grow as clearing operations closed in on new areas, including some in the north and east of the city, near the Euphrates River.

    U.S. officials said they saw Islamic State fighters fleeing to that area, known as the “Shark’s Fin” because of its shape, as those IS fighters sought to get out of the way of Iraqi forces.

    At a briefing earlier Wednesday in Baghdad, a coalition intelligence official put the number of fighters at about 700, twice the size of earlier estimates.

    "Within what we call central Ramadi, they estimate still up to 400 Daesh [Islamic State] members," said U.S. Army Captain Chance McCraw, according to a report from Reuters. He was using a common Arabic word for IS.

    “Once you go east of that towards Fallujah, you've got about 300 out there in that direction,” McCraw added.

    WATCH: Related video report by Jeff Seldin

    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.

    Until Wednesday, U.S. and Iraqi officials had been confident that efforts to encircle the city and cut off access to resupply and reinforcement from other Islamic State units had been taking a heavier toll. Additionally, more than 600 coalition airstrikes were thought to have whittled down the number of IS fighters.

    “I think it goes to show how much uncertainty there is about what is occurring on the ground,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a terrorism research group in Washington.

    “The U.S. doesn't really have firm figures for ISIL's forces,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. “The ambiguity in Ramadi is a part of a larger problem.”

    Many U.S. officials have also been wary of placing too much importance on numbers as an indication of success, with Ramadi being an example.

    “We think less about numbers and more about what can they do,” Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Colonel Steve Warren told Pentagon reporters Tuesday during a teleconference from Baghdad. “We don't think that the remaining enemy has the oomph [strength] to push the Iraqi security forces off of their positions.”

    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.

    Warren said most of the early counterattacks in Ramadi consisted of small groups of three to five militants using either a heavy machine gun or a rocket-propelled grenade, indicative of what was to come. Many of the buildings have also been rigged with explosives designed to kill and slow down Iraqi forces.

    There are also concerns the militants will try to hide among Ramadi’s civilian population.

    On Tuesday, the Iraqi military said it had freed 52 families trapped inside Ramadi. Islamic State fighters had been using them as human shields, the officials said.


    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Eric L from: New Jersey
    December 31, 2015 10:37 AM
    Daesh started off as Zarqawi's 'al-qaeda in Iraq'/'Islamic State in Iraq' - they have no fears about dissolving back into an insurgency so grievances can be directed at invaders/crusaders instead of their crude theocracy.

    by: Moses608 from: Kenya
    December 31, 2015 8:06 AM
    What is so scaring to some is that History is repeating itself.About 1000 years ago Europe abandoned its crusades to the Holy land to after finding a new route to India.The West is loosing interest in the Middle East.Vast oil fields are being found in Eastern Africa and USA is going to be the largest oil producer in the world by the year 2020.As such the submerging of the ISIS devils in Ramadi should not be celebrated.The USA which for years has acted as World Policeman is abandoning that role as the devil rears his head.Where will the world be?

    by: meanbill from: USA
    December 30, 2015 10:41 AM
    When bragging about the great victory the US helped the 3rd world Iraqi army accomplish in Ramadi against 150 to 300 ISIL terrorists, [the US should remember], that they abandoned Afghanistan to the terrorists after 14 years of fighting them, and abandoned Iraq to the terrorists after fighting them for 7 years, [and remember], that the ISIL terrorists has conquered and still holds a landmass equal to half the countries in the world, with tens of millions of captive innocents? .. AND NOW? .. IF the US didn't tell everybody that they were winning the war against the terrorists, [then], any sane reasonable person would think the terrorists were winning the war against them, wouldn't they? .. it's a matter of perspective, isn't it?
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    December 30, 2015 11:35 PM
    Just like a bad Hollywood "B" monster movie, when they thought the terrifying ISIL monster was dead, the terrifying ISIL monster proved he was still alive by killing again? .. Like the president said, it's like playing a real life game of (Whack O Mole) with these terrorists? .. they keep popping up and they keep trying to whack them with bombs, and they just keep popping up all over the place again, and you keep trying to whack them with bombs again? .. and that folks, is the US (Whack O Mole) anti-terrorist plan to defeat the terrorists? .. feel safer now?

    by: anynmous from: usa
    December 30, 2015 10:34 AM
    who will be held responsible for the total destruction of Syria and Iraq. it is the Islam. the fighting that destroy the two countries is conflict between Shia and Sunni. the second reasons is Saudi Arabia which manipulate the politician in USA . the third
    reasons is the ignorance of US leader whom they can not sense that Saudi Arabia is using them to promote conflict that causes destruction for the sake of Sunni supermacy
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 30, 2015 6:03 PM
    The true reason for the destruction of the ME is George Bush stomping into Iraq to finish his daddy's business and line his pockets. He knew so little about the political situation on the ground in Iraq that he thought putting the brutal murderer Maliki would create a more stable environment. Instead Maliki and his iranian rat friends created death squads who heinously raped/murdered/tortured their way across the Sunni majority Iraq. ISIS didn't take most of Iraq, their Sunni tribal friends did after they convinced them that Baghdaad did not have their best interests in mind. Afghanistan is a completely different story but once again it was Bush's cronies who ignored the advice of intelligence officials to use jawbreaker teams and local indigenous population instead of the military.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    December 30, 2015 5:49 PM
    For Syria it will be Turkey who started the civil war with a false-flag operation of gassing the Syrian people.

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