BAGHDAD • Iraqi forces yesterday pushed out of central Ramadi to extend their grip on the city, sweeping neighbourhoods to flush out pockets of militants and evacuate trapped civilians.
Federal forces last Sunday declared victory in the battle for Ramadi, which was months in the making, but the Anbar provincial capital has not been fully secured yet.
Ramadi district mayor Hamid al-Dulaimi said: "Our security forces launched an operation from Khaldiya, east of Ramadi, and managed to liberate the College of Agriculture. They are clearing several other neighbourhoods."
Anbar police chief Hadi Irzayij said the security forces detained 30 suspected Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters "who were attempting to flee Ramadi by blending in with civilians".
He said they were detained on Thursday and would be interrogated. "We are following a plan put together in a way that will prevent casualties in the ranks of the security forces," the police chief added.
ISIS, which took full control of Ramadi in May last year, had planted thousands of explosive devices on roads and in buildings to defend the city. Clearing operations are led by Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service (CTS), along with army, police and local tribal forces, as well as aerial backing from the United States-led anti-ISIS coalition.
The army said the militants are no longer in a position to fight and retake Ramadi, but many of them managed to pull out of last week's main battle and redeploy in eastern Ramadi or nearby rural areas.
A CTS colonel said about 30 ISIS militants had been arrested as they tried to slip out of Ramadi. He described some of them as senior local leaders.
Major Majed Mohammed, who is from CTS, said: "What we are doing now is saving the trapped families."
He said their task was complicated by the high number of roadside bombs laid by the militants and the fact that ISIS was opening fire on civilians trying to escape.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday said the army would head next to Mosul, the biggest urban centre under ISIS control. He said its capture would mark the end of the "caliphate" proclaimed from the northern city's main mosque in June 2014.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS