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Iraqi Security Forces Retake Ramadi Hospital From IS, Push Back Gunmen From City Center

Smoke rises from a bomb attack in clashes between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Ramadi on April 9.
Smoke rises from a bomb attack in clashes between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants on the outskirts of Ramadi on April 9.

Iraqi security and tribal forces managed to push Islamic State (IS) gunman out of a hospital building in the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi early on April 21, Iraqi media is reporting.

IS militants took over the hospital building two days ago, according to the Alhadath-TV website.

Ten IS militants were killed when Iraqi forces stormed the building, according to the reports.

The reports that Iraqi forces have pushed IS gunmen out of the Ramadi hospital building come amid other news of gains for government forces in Anbar's provincial capital.

Anbar police chief Major General Kazim Fahdawi told pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat on April 21 that Iraqi security forces had managed to clear 17th Street in Ramadi's downtown area and said that 13 IS militants had been killed in clashes.

Clashes were ongoing in the Sufiya, Albu Faraj, and Sajariya areas, to the north and east of Ramadi, Fahdawi said.

Faleh al- Issawi, the deputy head of Anbar's provincial council, told Asharq Alawsat that fighting in Anbar had moved from the city center to its outskirts.

Issawi said that military reinforcements had allowed Iraqi security forces to shift from a defensive position to a situation where they have been able to go on the offensive and attack IS.

Issawi praised the bravery of Iraqi security and tribal forces who defended Ramadi in the face of the IS assault.

Over the past week, IS has come close to taking control of Ramadi.

Iraqi officials warned last week that Ramadi could fall to IS, as the militants stepped up efforts to besiege the city. The gunmen managed to take over several government buildings in a complex in the center of the city on April 17, and by April 19, the Anbar Provincial Council warned that IS had taken over around 20 percent of the city.

Reinforcements and U.S-led air strikes have helped turn the tide against IS, at least for now.

According to the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force on April 20, five U.S.-led air strikes near Ramadi hit three IS tactical units, one large and two small. The attacks destroyed an IS fighting position and an IS armored vehicle, the task force said.

But Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren said that Ramadi remains "highly contested."

"It's a tough fight there right now," Warren told reporters on April 20, but added that he was hopeful "that coalition airpower along with the resolve of the Iraqi ground forces will be able to hold."

The battle for Ramadi is far from over, however.

According to RFE/RL's correspondent in Iraq, a police source said on April 20 that IS had booby-trapped at least 70 houses on the outskirts of the city.

And while the Anbar Council reported that some families have been making their way back to their homes in Ramadi, thousands more remain displaced in Baghdad.

A Ramadi resident displaced to Habbaniya and living in makeshift accommodation said on April 20 that those who had fled their homes were in a desperate situation.

"There is no electricity and no water in these tents. ... There are sick people with chronic diseases. Until now, no one came to help us," the Ramadi resident said in a video posted to Facebook by the International Committee of the Red Cross:

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world.


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