Iraqi security forces on Tuesday commenced two military offensives to drive out Islamic State (IS) militants from Anbar’s provincial capital city of Ramadi and the remaining parts of Salahudin province, a militia spokesman said.
The Iraqi army, police and allied Sunni and Shiite militias, known as Hashd Shaabi (popular mobilization), advanced in the early hours of the day from their positions toward the IS-held city of Ramadi. Located at 110 km west of the Iraq’s capital Baghdad, Ahmed al-Asadi, spokesman of the Hashd Shaabi, said in a press conference broadcast by the state-run channel of Iraqiya.
He said the Iraqi forces now were moving toward Ramadi from three directions and managed to cut the IS supply routes south of Ramadi, preparing to liberate the city, Xinhua news agency sited Asadi as saying.
Late on May 17, the IS militants took full control of Ramadi after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their positions in the headquarters of the army’s 8th Brigade and the provincial operations command.
The rapid retreat of the security forces and the fall of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, was seen as a setback to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s efforts to defeat the IS terrorist group in Anbar province and then to free the IS-held city of Mosul in the north.
In Salahudin province, Asadi said that the security forces and Hashd Saabi started in the early morning hours a new operation dubbed "Labaiyka Ya Hussein" (We are at your service, Hussein), who is one of the most revered Imam among the 12 Shia Imams.
He said, the operation was designed to free the areas in the western part of Salahudin province and the northern part of the neighbouring Anbar province from the IS militants.
Since March 2, some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shia and Sunni militias have been involved in Iraq’s biggest offensive to recapture the northern part of Salahudin province, including Tikrit and other key towns and villages, from IS militants.
The security situation in Iraq has drastically deteriorated since June 2014, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the IS.