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Iraqi army begins operation to expel ISIS from Ramadi

Iraqi forces attempt to stop ISIS from further claiming more territories in Ramadi after retaking most of the country’s largest refinery

Published: Updated:

The Iraqi army started on Saturday its operation to halt Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants from further advancing in Ramadi city, the capital of the western Anbar province, Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent reported.

Earlier in Saturday, Iraqi forces, with the backing of Shiite militia volunteers known as “Popular Mobilization units” started heading toward Anbar to stop ISIS militants from claiming control over Ramadi while the parliament in Baghdad called on neighboring Arab countries to offer their support.

ISIS militants have been making inroads near Ramadi since last week, when the government announced a new offensive to recapture Anbar, large parts of which the militant group has held for the past year.

Many of Ramadi’s residents started fleeing the city, waving white flags after police sources and provincial council members said on Friday that ISIS militants were no more than half a kilometer from the city’s center.

The operation began after the Iraqi forces retook most of the country’s largest refinery from ISIS on Saturday, security officials said, reversing gains by the militants who seized parts of the sprawling complex this week.

The insurgents attacked Iraq’s Baiji refinery a week ago by blasting through the security perimeter around it and taking over several in stallions, including storage tanks.

A spokesman for Iraq’s counterterrorism forces told Reuters troops protecting the refinery had now retaken most facilities, although there were still small pockets of insurgents left on the site.

“We expect to regain full control within a couple of hours,” Sabah al-Noamani said.

Iraqi forces retook Baiji refinery from militants once before last November, but lost control of it again.

Islamic State insurgents suffered a major defeat this month when Iraqi troops and Shiite paramilitaries routed them from the city of Tikrit, but struck back at Baiji and in the western province of Anbar.

Thousands of families have fled Anbar in recent days as Islamic State militants gained on Ramadi and local officials warned the city was about to fall.

Two members of the Anbar provincial council and police Major Khalid al-Fahdawi who is stationed inside Ramadi said reinforcements were on the way and the city was no longer in immediate peril.

“The danger is still there, but the situation is better than yesterday,” provincial council member Sabah Karhout told Reuters.

(With Reuters)