Thousands flee Ramadi as Daesh intensifies offensive

Published April 17th, 2015 - 01:29 GMT
Daesh's attack on Ramadi is widely considered a counteroffensive in response to their loss in Tikrit earlier this month. (
Daesh's attack on Ramadi is widely considered a counteroffensive in response to their loss in Tikrit earlier this month. (

More than 2,000 families have fled the Iraqi city of Ramadi after ISIS (also known as Daesh) forces intensified their offensive on the Iraqi city.

According to Iraqi officials, ISIS fighters have nearly surrounded the capital of western Anbar province, despite the best efforts of the Iraqi army and arriving Shiite paramilitary reinforcements.

The advance is widely seen as an ISIS's attempt at an counteroffensive after being forced to abandon the important Iraqi city of Tikrit, earlier this month.

American troops previously fought some of their bloodiest battles against al-Qaida insurgents in Ramadi during the eight-year U.S. intervention. 

Hundreds of U.S. troops have been training Iraqi forces at Ain al-Asad military base, situated west of Ramadi.  

Iraqi government forces still control the city center but appear to be struggling after months of ISIS pressure from the suburbs of the city.

Video obtained by The Associated Press showed plumes of thick, black smoke billowing above the city as fighter jets pounded militant targets. On the city outskirts, displaced residents frantically tried to make their way out amid the heavy bombardment.

Officials confirmed that US led coalition air strikes had targeted the three villages recently taken by ISIS on Wednesday.

Supplies including tents and food has already been dispatched to the terrified families, now living in difficult conditions in the suburbs of Baghdad.

Fleeing residents now in Baghdad said that Ramadi resembled an ghost town.

Anbar's deputy governor, Faleh al-Issawi, described the situation in Ramadi as "catastrophic" and urged the central government to send in reinforcements.

"We urge the Baghdad government to supply us immediately with troops and weapons in order to help us prevent the city from falling into the hands of the IS group," he told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said access to the city was limited but humanitarian workers were trying to verify the reports of fleeing residents.

Prior to the current bout of fighting, some 400,000 Iraqis were already displaced, including 60,000 in Ramadi district, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who was visiting Washington on Wednesday, did not mention fears surrounding Ramadi.

Instead he praised the 5,000 Sunni tribal fighters who have reportedly enlisted to help defend Ramadi and other strategic towns in Anbar province. 

If Ramadi does fall to ISIS, it would be the first major Iraqi city to be taken by the extremist group since militants seized Mosul in June 2014. 

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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