Civilians Flee As Iraqi Forces Fight To Recapture Ramadi From Islamic State

Over the next 72 hours, allied Iraqi tribes and state militia aim to recapture the Iraqi city of Ramadi, clearing it of combatants supporting the Islamic State terrorist organization.

Ramadi is Iraq’s capital city and sports the largest population in the country. Since the city fell to Islamic State forces after a five-month battle in May this year, the Iraqi Army has fought for Ramadi multiple times. In this most recent push, the Iraq security forces are joined by U.S. close air support, and Iraq’s Army Counterterrorism Unit Spokesman General Sabah al-Numani reported on Tuesday that the key city will be cleared “within the coming 72 hours,” reports the New York Times.

The U.S. Spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. Military operation against ISIL, is real-time tweeting Iraqi and U.S. forces’ actions against ISIL and can be followed at @OIRSpox.

Most recently, he tweeted about the Iraqi Security Forces’ move to warn civilians in Ramadi to flee and providing them with escape routes.

The pamphlet declares to the civilian population, estimated at between 4,000 and 10,000 people, that Iraqi security forces are working to free them from the occupiers.

“In the name of Allah, the gracious and merciful – To Our People in Ramadi City – as of your armed forces to liberate your city, they had observed [civilians trapped] in the central of the city and we had received distress [calls to warn] you to leave the city by taking one of the [escape routes].”

The Islamic State uses a familiar terrorism tactic of basing their operations among non-combatants in major urban centers and using the population as “human shields,” reports BBC News.

At least one Islamic State supporter is trying to wage his own information campaign, tweeting in response to Col. Warren’s message that ISIL will “make Ramadi a cemetery for your soldiers” and adding some grumpy emojis.

The current operation is apparently more precise than those undertaken by the pro-government Shiite militia, which have raised concerns in places like Ramadi where the population is almost entirely made up of Sunni Muslims, according to the Associated Press.

ISIL bombed the bridges into Ramadi after overrunning the city in May, so Iraqi security forces troops entered the city by crossing the Euphrates river north of the city using “expedient bridging.”

The offensive has been ongoing since Ramadi initially fell to the Islamic State, but since early December has gathered momentum. Iraqi commanders say they expect to regain all of Ramadi before the New Year, reports the Washington Post.

The Iraqi-led offensive has scored success over the last several weeks, including the recapture of large neighborhoods, the freeing of frightened civilians, and intelligence left behind by operatives of the terrorist organization, reported the New York Times.

Recapturing Ramadi is a critical fight not only for a strategic city but also to reestablish the reputation of the Iraqi Security Forces within the country and abroad.

“The army in the past has been an army of defeats, but now we will be the army of liberation,” explained Maj. Gen. Islmail al-Mahlawi, Anbar Operations Command Commander.

The Iraqi Security Forces are running into stiff resistance in Ramadi, reports the New York Times. Around 300 Islamic State fighters are believed to be in the city, and the security forces are fighting against improvised explosive devices and booby-trapped buildings in addition to militants.

[Photo by Muhannad Fala’ah/Getty Images]