0221 GMT February 19, 2020
Iraq’s Defense Ministry announced Saturday that army forces and volunteer fighters have managed to advance near the provincial capital of Ramadi, retaking positions from the militants in the Khamsa Kilo district.
The statement said more than 80 Daesh militants were killed in the operation by allied forces on the outskirts of Ramadi and Fallujah, another town which is mostly controlled by the Takfiri group.
Iraq’s al-Baghdadiyah TV channel said that most of those militants were killed in an army shelling of Assettin and al-Mala’b neighborhoods in Ramadi.
Meanwhile, US military officials have revised their previous statements on the inability of the Iraqi army to retake Anbar, with a US Central Command spokesman saying Saturday that he is confident the pro-government forces are close to recapturing the province.
Air Force Colonel Pat Ryder said Iraqi forces were making progress in the fourth week of their operation against Daesh, describing their job as “tough” and “dangerous.”
Daesh captured Ramadi nearly three months ago. US officials blamed the seizure on the lack of sufficient contribution from the Iraqi troops to counter the progress of the Takfiri group. Iraq has dismissed the accusation.
Pro-government forces have already managed to push back Daesh from some key cities and towns, including Tikrit, which was completely purged of militants in late March. The allied forces are planning to retake Anbar before they start their long-anticipated drive toward Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which itself fell into the hands of Daesh last year.