May 16, 2015 4:49 AM

Iraq sends troops to Ramadi, largely held by Islamic State

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq has sent reinforcements to help its battered forces in Ramadi, a city now largely held by the Islamic State group after militants seized the main government compound the day before, a military spokesman said Saturday.

The spokesman of the Joint Operations Command, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, told Iraqi state television that the U.S.-led coalition was supporting Iraqi troops with "painful" airstrikes since late Friday.

Ibrahim didn't give details on the ongoing battles, but described the situation on the ground as "positive" and vowed that the Islamic State group would be pushed out of the city "in the coming hours."

On Friday, the militants swept through Ramadi, capital of the western Anbar province, launching a coordinated offensive included three near-simultaneous suicide car bombings. The militants seized the main government headquarters and other key parts of the city.

Local officials said dozens of security forces and civilians were killed, mainly the families of the troops. Ten police officers and 30 pro-government tribal fighters were among those killed.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on Friday, promising the delivery of heavy weapons, including AT-4 shoulder-held rockets to counter suicide car bombs, according to a U.S. Embassy statement.

The statement said both leaders agreed on the "importance and urgency of mobilizing tribal fighters working in coordination with Iraqi security forces to counter ISIL and to ensure unity of effort among all of Iraq's communities." It used an alternative acronym for the IS group.

Backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, Iraqi forces and Kurdish fighters have made gains against the IS group, including capturing the northern city of Tikrit. But progress has been slow in Anbar, a vast Sunni province where anger at the Shiite-led government runs deep and where U.S. forces struggled for years to beat back a potent insurgency. American soldiers fought some of their bloodiest battles since Vietnam on the streets of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Elsewhere in Iraq on Saturday, police said gunmen stormed an apartment in downtown Baghdad, killing three men and two women suspected of prostitution. Previous attacks on suspected prostitutes have been blamed on extremists from the Sunni and Shiite communities.

In Baghdad's southern Dora district, a roadside bomb struck an army patrol, killing two soldiers and wounding three others. A sticky bomb attached to a minibus exploded and killed two passengers in eastern Baghdad.

Police said a bomb exploded on a commercial street in the town of Mahmoudiya, just south of Baghdad, killing two people and wounding nine others.

Medical officials confirmed the casualties from all attacks. All official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.


Associated Press writers Sameer N. Yacoub and Murtada Faraj contributed to this report.


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