The Iraqi army has left leaflets asking people to leave the strategic city of Ramadi, currently held by ISIS, within 72 hours, as pro-government forces close in on the militants in the capital of the western province of Anbar.
Iraq’s state TV, citing a military statement, said the government forces plan to launch a major offensive to liberate the city from the Takrifi ISIS terrorists.
“It is an indication that a major military operation to retake the city center will start soon,” one officer said on condition of anonymity.
The leaflets indicated safe routes for civilians to exit the city and asked them to carry proper identification documents, joint operations spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Rasool told Reuters by phone. “All security forces were instructed on how to deal with civilian approaching them.”
This comes as Iraqi security forces, backed by fighters from allied Popular Mobilization units, have made advances on the outskirts of Ramadi liberating a number of neighborhoods and destroying terrorists from the areas.
Last week Iraqi security forces said they had made advances on two fronts in Ramadi, clearing Islamic State militants from a military command base and the sprawling neighborhood of al-Taamim on the western rim of the city that they captured in May. Iraqi intelligence estimates the number of Islamic State fighters that are entrenched in the centre of Ramadi, capital of the Sunni Anbar province, at between 250 and 300.
Iraq’s Defense Ministry has recently predicted that the militant-riddled city of Ramadi will be liberated before the end of 2015.
Iraq’s Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi has said that the government in the past had repeatedly delayed the operations in an attempt to avoid civilian casualties.
Iraqi forces succeeded in liberating some militant-held areas and further tightening their siege around the city.
The city of Ramadi has been under ISIS control since May.
The Takfiri terrorist group has claimed dozens of bombing attacks on areas outside of its control across Iraq, including those in central and eastern provinces.
The Iraqi military and popular forces have managed to expel the militants from some key areas, including Tikrit, the capital of Salahuddin Province, which was declared liberated at the end of March.
Written by Yoana Manoilova for South Front