The long-awaited push to retake the Iraqi city of Ramadi from the Islamic State is under way, and it has given the Iraqis a chance for payback against the ISIS militants who routed them over the past few years.
A new video, broadcast on Iranian television, shows Iraqi forces humiliating ISIS prisoners – “taunting” them and “forcing them to kneel in the sand and cower in fear,” as Australia’s 9News puts it.
9News describes the video as showing “a large column of captured ISIL supporters kneel in the dirt in single file, their hands handcuffed with their heads bowed as an Iraqi army commander laughs and jeers in their faces.”
“More footage captured by Iraqi state TV and on fighter’s smartphones shows soldiers driving down the deserted streets of the bombed-out city, cautiously entering homes to find possible booby traps and retrieving shells and rockets from abandoned ISIL positions,” the report continues.
The drive to recapture Ramadi – involving Iraqi troops, police, militias, and U.S. air support – seems to be going well so far. The New York Times quotes Iraqi General Sabah al-Numani confidently predicting “the city will be cleared within the coming 72 hours.”
Although the NYT report says hundreds of ISIS militants were killed during battlespace preparation over the past few weeks, those who remain in Ramadi are mounting stiff resistance:
Iraqi forces, including a mix of soldiers and policemen along with a contingent of Sunni tribal fighters, faced heavy fire and were assaulted by car bombs, Iraqi officials said. And fighters for the Islamic State destroyed three bridges over the Euphrates River to slow the security forces’ advance, according to Gen. Ahmed al-Belawi, the leader of a battalion of Sunni tribal fighters.
U.S.-made portable bridges solved that problem, and now Iraqi forces have reportedly reached the center of the city.
“The rapid advances on Monday and Tuesday held out hope that after months of preparation, the government had finally marshaled a large enough force to prevail in Ramadi and begin a wider operation to fight the Islamic State in other areas of Anbar Province,” the New York Times ventures.
Such a victory would be a tremendous morale boost for Iraqi forces, and corresponding blow to the Islamic State’s image as irresistible conquerors, while also paving the way for an even more decisive battle to retake the Islamic State’s Iraqi capital of Mosul.
According to Reuters, the government of the Anbar province claims only foreign ISIS fighters remain in Ramadi, as the local Sunnis who helped the Islamic State take the city in May fled before the big Iraqi counter-offensive began.
Anbar officials said the foreign ISIS militants trapped in Ramadi “have resorted to taking men hostage” and are “preventing civilians from fleeing the city.”
A spokesman for the Anbar governor joined General al-Numani in predicting Ramadi would be liberated by Christmas, although U.S. officials cautioned it might take longer to completely clear the city of insurgents, sleeper agents, and booby traps.