At least 27 Iraqi soldiers have been killed in two suicide attacks northwest of Ramadi as the push to recapture the city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group continues, military sources say.
Ramadi, situated about 120km from the capital, Baghdad, was captured by ISIL in May but the Iraqi forces have managed to claw back some territory. It says it now controls more than half the city, including a key military command centre.
Ramadi is a crucial city in the fight against ISIL and its capture by the armed group was seen as a very big defeat, Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan said.
“ISIL has been shelling government troops advancing in Ramadi,” Khan reported from Erbil.
“It’s the biggest city in Iraq’s largest province and the heartland of the Sunni community of Iraq. It’s a big trading post for the country as well, with roads leading into Jordan and Syria.”
Thursday’s clashes came after US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called on allies to intensify their effort against ISIL.
“The international community – including our allies and partners – has to step up before another attack like Paris,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
“Turkey must do more to control its often-porous border. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states joined the air portion of the campaign in the early days – only the air part – but have since been preoccupied by the conflict in Yemen.
“And just this past week, I personally reached out to my counterparts in 40 countries to ask them to contribute and, in many cases, contribute much more to enhancing the fight against ISIL.”
Carter said that it has taken a “frustratingly long time” for Iraqi security forces to wrest back territory.
But he pointed to significant gains, including recapturing the Anbar Operations Centre on the northern bank of the Euphrates River in the past 24 hours.
“The United States is prepared to assist the Iraqi army with additional unique capabilities to help them finish the job, including attack helicopters and accompanying advisers,” Carter said.
The US has recently announced plans to deploy elite American military teams to Iraq and Syria, and Carter told the Senate hearing that he was in touch with coalition partners to ask them to contribute special operations forces. AL JAZEERA