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Iraq Sends More Troops to Fight ISIS in Ramadi
Iraq sent battalions of reinforcements on Wednesday to secure neighborhoods in Ramadi recaptured from the Islamic State, as soldiers continued an offensive for a second day to try to take full control of the city.
The reinforcements, including Sunni Muslim tribal fighters trained by the United States, were intended to allow the first wave of troops to continue pushing toward a government complex in the center of Ramadi held by fighters for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, a senior military commander told Iraqi state television.
Soldiers were also fighting to control a district in southern Ramadi along the Euphrates River, officials said.
Iraqi military officials have said the offensive will take days, with soldiers facing stiff resistance from the militants and an urban landscape laden with hidden explosives.
Col. Steven H. Warren, a United States military spokesman in Baghdad, said Wednesday that the Iraqis were in a tough fight for Ramadi and that there had been no significant developments in the battle to reclaim the city.
The recapture of Ramadi, which is in the center of Iraq, about 60 miles from Baghdad, would be the most important in a series of recent setbacks for the Islamic State, and the first major success for Iraqi Army troops fighting without support from Kurdish or Shiite Muslim militias, the country's most effective fighting forces.
The Islamic State captured Ramadi in May, dealing a humiliating blow to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and exposing government failures, including the disorganization of the military.
Efforts to hold the city at that time were stymied by a reluctance to deploy Shiite militias in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province and a main city in the Sunni heartland of Iraq.
To guard against sectarian tensions, this time the government deployed a mix of Sunni tribal fighters, police officers and special operations soldiers in the operation that began early Tuesday, with air support from the United States-led military coalition.
But with thousands of civilians still trapped in the city as the violence escalates, local officials complained Wednesday that they were being kept in the dark about the details of the offensive.
Eid Ammash, a spokesman for the Anbar provincial council, said the council was getting information about the military operations from journalists rather than from the military.
"The security leadership justify it by saying to us that they do not want the information to reach ISIS," he said.
There was also criticism from the Shiite militias, who operate under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces, who said their role in the assault in Ramadi was being overlooked.
Kareem al-Noori, a spokesman for the forces, said the gains in Ramadi had come after months of battles by Shiite militias against the Islamic State in areas around the city. He said those battles had severed the extremist group's supply lines.
"Today, Washington comes along to steal the victories," Mr. Noori said.
[Source: By Falih Hassan and Kareem Fahim, The New York Times, Baghdad, 23Dec15]
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|This document has been published on 28Dec15 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|