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'Mosul after Ramadi', says Iraqi PM, as IS counterattacks

As Iraq's anti-IS operation in Ramadi enters third day, IS counterattacked to relieve pressure [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 25 December, 2015

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The Iraqi government has claimed the battle to retake IS-held Ramadi will be over in days, as the prime minister pledged Mosul would be liberated next, but IS has counterattacked.

Iraq's armed forces will move to retake the major northern city of Mosul from Islamic State (IS) once they capture the western city of Ramadi, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Friday.

Capturing Mosul would deprive the militant group of its biggest population center in both Iraq and Syria, effectively abolishing the state structure of IS in Iraq, depriving it of a major source of funding and dealing a blow to its influence.

The capture of Ramadi would give the army a major psychological boost in its move toward Mosul.

The cities are about 420 km apart by road.

Iraqi forces started an attack Tuesday to dislodge IS militants from the center of Ramadi, the last district under their control in the city they had captured in May.

IS seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, in 2014, in an offensive that forced government forces to abandon a third of Iraqi territory.

The group declared a caliphate over the Iraqi and adjacent Syrian Sunni populated territory it controls.

"The liberation of dear Mosul will be achieved with the cooperation and unity of all Iraqis after the victory in Ramadi," Abadi said in a statement on the state media website Friday.

Army commanders said Wednesday that the battle for Ramadi would take several days.

However, IS carried out a major counterattack on the town of Amiriyah Fallujah, in an attempt to relieve pressure on Ramadi where Iraqi forces have been making steady gains since mid-last week.

Hassan al-Issawi, a tribal elder taking part in the fighting against IS, told The New Arab's Arabic service, the attack started at dawn today from three directions.

Issawi said scores of rockets and mortar shells fell near the town's government complex and police station.

Clashes ensued between defenders and IS militants, who tried to cross the Euphrates.

"The terrorist group is trying to move the battle of Ramadi to other places, to scatter the efforts of the security forces," Issawi said.

One was reported killed and seven were injured in the IS bombardment of Amiriyah Fallujah, according to local medical sources.

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