Iraq’s army and allied paramilitary forces massed around Ramadi on Tuesday, looking for swift action to recapture the city from the ISIS group before it builds up defences.
Today ISIS terrorists tried to keep up the momentum by attacking government and allied forces east of the city. Abadi has “ordered the setting up of new defence lines in Ramadi, to reorganise and deploy the fighting troops”, his office said late Monday .
He had hoped to rely on regular forces and locally recruited Sunni tribal fighters newly incorporated into the Hashed al-Shaabi.
Following a green light, they started sending convoys of fighters to Anbar, where anti-ISIS forces are massing, mostly east and west of Ramadi.
Anbar police chief Kadhim al-Fahdawi said a large number of well-prepared troops were positioned in Husaybah, about seven kilometres east of Ramadi.
“This area will be the starting point for the operations to liberate the cities of Anbar,” he said.
But much planning remains to be done before Iraqi forces attempt to move back into Ramadi, a large town on the Euphrates about 100 kilometres west of Baghdad.
“The military operation to liberate Ramadi and Anbar will not start until all the requirements are met,” Fahdawi said.
At least 28 Army officer in the city were rescued in a dramatic helicopter exfiltration, footage of which has been aired on state TV, but many were killed and more are still missing.
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According to an official in the Anbar governor’s office, at least 500 fighters and civilians were killed in the three-day blitz leading to Ramadi’s fall.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, 40,000 people were forced from their homes by the fighting, the second time in a month Ramadi residents had to flee.
“Nothing is more important right now than helping the people fleeing Ramadi,” said the UN’s humanitarian coordinator, Lise Grande.
“Thousands of people had to sleep in the open because they didn’t have places to stay.”
At least 2.8 million people have been displaced by conflict in Iraq since the start of 2014.
Four times as many have been forced from their homes in neighbouring Syria, where ISIS was also trying to retake the initiative and made gains in the Palmyra area.