Apr 13 2014
By Nourideen Hameed
Azzaman, April 13, 2014
Iraq is massing troops for an assault on what it says are “hideouts” of Jihadists and militants who are still in control of a number of neighbourhoods in Ramadi, the capital of the Province of Anbar.
Most of the militants in Ramadi belong to ISIS, the Islamic State for Iraq and the Levant, which has recently consolidated its positions in Anbar as well as other Sunni-dominated provinces like Nineveh, Salahudeen and Diyala.
ISIS surged to prominence in these provinces in the past three months with its militants mounting deadly attacks and even threatening to push towards Baghdad.
But ISIS’ military presence is most felt in the restive Province of Anbar, where its Jihadists are reported to be still in control of the strategic town of Falluja and are using the part of the River Tigris they control and a dam to inundate large swathes of agricultural land.
‘Water as a weapon’ is ISIS’ latest tactic. It has opened the sluices of a dam to flood Iraqi troops encircling Falluja and using earth-moving machines and other vehicles to divert the course of the Euphrates.
“Ramadi will be the scene of a military operation in the coming two days to liberate the areas seized by gunmen,” said Faleh al-Isawi, Deputy Governor of Anbar Province.
Isawi admitted that ISIS fighters were still present in Ramadi and that fighting was raging in numerous of its districts.
Iraqi troops were also reported to be bracing for an attack on Falluja.
However, he said media reports particularly by some Arab television channels, which did not name, were exaggerating conditions.
Isawi said conditions were improving with Iraqi army and security forces spreading their control gradually and militants fleeing.
Isawi gave no figures on casualties in Ramadi, but medical reports spoke of 17 people killed in Falluja due sporadic mortar shelling.
Violent clashes were reported in the northern city of Mosul, the capital of Nineveh Province, which ISIS is trying to use as a stronghold to launch attacks on Iraqi troops and reduce pressure on its militants in Anbar.
The Iraqi army issues daily statements on its ongoing battles with ISIS and other armed groups in which air force fighters are involved.
The army has thrown its weight behind the battle to regain the initiative in the battles in Ramadi province, which ISIS is using as a military and a point to link with its branch in Syria.