ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces on Wednesday managed to defeat a group of Islamic State (IS) militants who infiltrated areas around Ramadi, west of Baghdad, in an attempted ambush to disrupt operations in Anbar.
According to security sources, the extremists briefly took control of three areas near the city, which is also the capital of the large Anbar Province.
The sources said heavy clashes ensued “for several hours” between Iraqi forces and IS militants, with casualties on both sides, and ending in the recapture of the three areas.
“Security forces and the tribes retook control of the Al-Tash, Majr, and Kilometre Seven districts,” provincial police chief Major General Hadi Razij Kassar told reporters.
“All the [IS] members were killed,” he added.
The militant group launched the assault as Iraqi forces are advancing against IS in their last two strongholds in the country, one of them further up the Euphrates Valley from Ramadi.
One general, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, revealed the Iraqi troops had killed 20 extremists.
Seven security personnel were killed, several wounded, and 18 civilians injured in the clashes.
“A curfew has been imposed on the city of Ramadi and its surroundings to prevent any security breaches,” Major General Kassar informed.
Iraqi forces and Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi retook full control of Ramadi over a year ago, in February 2016. Despite that, they continue to battle IS fighters elsewhere in the Anbar Province and face threats of insurgent attacks.
The recent breach in the city raises questions over Iraqi soldiers’ capability in holding territory from the militant group as reconstruction in liberated areas is moving at a slow pace.
Security and stability concerns have also grown from the outcome of Monday's referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region, as the Kurdish Peshmerga, which successfully drove the jihadist group from Kirkuk and other areas now under the administration of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), were asked to withdraw from the mixed city.
The Kurdish leadership has repeatedly stated that its referendum would not affect their commitment to the fight against IS and that the Peshmerga will continue to protect areas it liberated.
Editing by G.H. Renaud