Iraqi forces cemented their hold on newly gained territory in Ramadi on Wednesday, after scoring a breakthrough in their fight against the ISIL group by retaking a large part of the city.
The terrorists, who have lost ground in Iraq over the past few months, meanwhile claimed a suicide bombing that killed eight people near a Shiite mosque in eastern Baghdad.
Backed by sustained air strikes from the US-led coalition, elite troops recaptured Ramadi’s southwestern neighborhood of Al-Tameem on Tuesday.
The advance was hailed as a significant step in efforts to retake Ramadi, a key ISIL hub 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of Baghdad, and fragment the terrorists’ self-proclaimed “caliphate”.
As the counter-terrorism forces that led the offensive prepared their next move, local forces from Anbar province moved in to hold recaptured territory.
Local police “moved from Habbaniyah to hold the land in Al-Tameem following its liberation,” a local councilor in the nearby Khaldiyah area, Ali Dawood, told AFP.
The force consists of around 500 fighters, a military source said.
One of the main tasks for Iraqi forces is to clear the area of bombs planted by ISIL, a favored tactic of the terrorists that means they can kill security personnel and civilians long after they have withdrawn from an area.
Cars and trucks laden with tones of explosives and driven by suicide attackers were a key weapon in ISIL’s shock capture of Ramadi in mid-May.
The coalition said in a statement that four such car bombs were destroyed in air raids on Tuesday, as well as a plant where they were manufactured.
A total of four coalition strikes in the area also destroyed ISIL positions and weapons and impeded the movements of terrorist fighters, the statement said.
Iraqi forces spent months cutting off ISIL supply lines around Ramadi and slowly closing in on the city by taking suburban areas one after the other.
“The liberation of Al-Tameem was very important and… enables other forces to advance toward the centre of the city of Ramadi,” said Sabah al-Noman, the spokesman for Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces.
He and other military sources said Iraqi forces had also retaken the Anbar Operations Command, a key facility which lies at a fork of the Euphrates River in the city.