Iraqi forces take ‘full control’ of Islamic State’s Ramadi headquarters

BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 (UPI) — Iraqi security forces have taken control of a former government compound in Ramadi that the Islamic State used as a headquarters.

“The government compound is under our full control,” Col. Mohammed Ibrahim, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told CNN. “This does not mean we have entered the compound. It means it is fully surrounded and fully under our control.”

Ibrahim said that although there may be pockets of resistance, most Islamic State fighters fled or were killed due to the ongoing airstrikes and ground combat, BBC News reports. The Iraqi government is planning to hold a flag-raising ceremony at the recaptured government compound on Monday, anticipating taking full control of Ramadi soon.

There has been no official death toll estimate released on the fight for Ramadi, but reports indicate about 400 Islamic State militants were in the city at one point.

Iraqi troops in recent weeks have been working to recapture Ramadi since IS forces seized the city in May. Security forces earlier this month captured areas of northern and western Ramadi, including the al-Aramil and al-Tameen districts, as well as the Palestine Bridge and Anbar Operations Center.

The Iraqi government and its allies in the U.S. coalition and Iran-trained Hashid Shaabi are fighting continued offensives to regain territories lost to IS forces that spilled over from Syria last year, particularly in the Anbar, Saladin and Nineveh provinces.

Iraqi forces have throughout the year conducted two phases of an offensive in the Saladin province, capturing the provincial capital, Tikrit, in April, and the city of Baiji and its surrounding areas in recent months.

The most significant IS-held city in Iraq is Mosul, capital of the Nineveh province, where Iraqi Peshmerga forces have played a prominent role on the ground against IS militants. The Peshmerga, supported by coalition airstrikes, captured the city of Sinjar last month, cutting off a major road linking Mosul to IS territories in Syria.

Fred Lambert contributed to this report.

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