Iraqi security forces in Anbar Province have managed to repel yet another major attack by Islamic State (IS) gunmen on the provincial capital Ramadi, 60 miles west of Baghdad. Local police sources said that ten Islamic State militants were killed in the clashes.
Islamic State militants launched a three-pronged surprise offensive in Ramadi, which is one of the last remaining urban areas under Baghdad's control in Anbar Province. The assaults were carried out in the northwest of the city, the southern Hawz district and in the eastern sector near the Euphrates River, according to an RFE/RL correspondent.
Tribal fighters in the northwestern Abu Risha area managed to push back the militants, killing three of them, the correspondent reported. Iraqi security forces engaged the militants in Ramadi's eastern district.
Various Iraqi news sources cited Hamid Shandukh, a local Ramadi police officer, as saying that ten Islamic State militants were killed in the clashes, while two Iraqi soldiers were killed and four more injured.
However, the claims that Islamic State militants were killed in Ramadi cannot be independently verified.
Shandukh said that Iraqi security forces had prevented Islamic State gunmen from progressing toward the government complexes in the center of Ramadi. Iraqi warplanes were patrolling in order to strike Islamic State forces, while extensive security measures have been taken around the government complexes in the downtown area, including a barrier around the complex to protect it against infiltration by IS gunmen.
Meanwhile, the Shafaaq news website reported on December 2 that a source in the Anbar Operations Command had said there would be a large-scale military operation against Islamic State in Ramadi in the next few days.
Over the past weeks, Islamic State has made a concerted push to take Ramadi, and has come extremely close to doing so. On November 21, the militant group launched a series of attacks against central and peripheral areas of the city, prompting Anbar's provincial council head Sabah al-Karhout to warn that the security threat in Ramadi was "dire."
On November 25, after Islamic State militants came within 20 meters of the provincial capital's government complexes in the city center, the Anbar provincial council warned that the militant group could overrun the city within 24 hours. Iraqi security forces managed to repel the gunmen, but the situation in the city clearly remains precarious.
Following that November 25 assault, security forces in Ramadi said that the U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State around the city had stopped. Ahmed Mishan al-Dulaimi, a Ramadi police lieutenant, told the McClatchy news agency that the coalition strikes had been critical in stopping Islamic State's initial offensives but that "we were told [the aircraft] were occupied with other fronts."
The United States Central Command announced on December 1 that coalition forces had launched an air strike against Islamic State "near Ramadi" sometime between November 28 and December 1. (The report did not specify on which day the strike was launched, or where exactly it took place.) The strike destroyed an Islamic State vehicle and struck a tactical unit.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk