Anbar, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi government forces and Sunni and Shi’ite volunteer militias have made strategic gains on the outskirts of the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the head of the Anbar police force said on Saturday.
“The joint forces comprising the Iraqi army, members of the Popular Mobilization [Shi’ite volunteer forces], and Sunni tribal volunteer forces have liberated the Anbar traffic directorate building after fierce battles with ISIS fighters,” Hadi Razij told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The building, which ISIS fighters had been using as a base, lies some 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) west of Ramadi.
Razij added that the recapture of the building has effectively allowed the joint Iraqi forces to seal off several escape routes from Ramadi, trapping ISIS fighters in the city as the joint forces prepare to launch a full-scale assault to recapture it.
The efforts come as part of an Iraqi offensive to retake Ramadi, the capital of the western Anbar province, from ISIS, as well as other areas of the province where the extremist group has a strong presence. ISIS took control of Ramadi on May 17.
Another offensive on the eastern side of Ramadi remains ongoing in preparation for the impending operation to liberate the city.
Ma’an Al-Kazimi, a high-ranking commander from the Popular Mobilization, told Asharq Al-Awsat efforts to liberate areas east of Ramadi were going according to plan.
“The battle we have launched against ISIS [east of Ramadi] has resulted in heavy losses . . . for the terrorist group . . . The security services and the Popular Mobilization are now on their way to entering Ramadi and liberating it from ISIS,” he said.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday, Brig. Gen. Ma’ad Badai from the Iraqi army said Iraqi forces were making headway against the group in other parts of the province, Iraq’s largest, bolstered by airstrikes carried out by the US-led anti-ISIS coalition.
ISIS has had a presence in the Anbar province since January of 2014, and took control of considerable swaths of Ramadi following its lightning advance across much of northern and western Iraq in June of that year.
The group began a renewed offensive to capture larger parts of the city on May 14, launching a series of suicide bomb attacks and ground assaults on Iraqi troops stationed at the provincial government building complex.
The Iraqi government forces were heavily criticized following their withdrawal from the city, which was likened to their capitulation to ISIS’s advance on Iraq’s second city Mosul in June of 2014.