Iraq’s armed forces will start an operation to retake the western city of Ramadi from ISIS militants very soon, army chief of staff Lt. General Othman al-Ghanemi told state TV on Monday.
“There is an ongoing operation to control a sector in preparation of the onslaught on the city center within the coming hours, God willing,” he said.
Iraqi intelligence estimates the number of ISIS militants who are entrenched in the center of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, at between 250 and 300.
Meanwhile, ISIS militants are preventing civilians from leaving Ramadi ahead of an attack planned by the Iraqi army to retake the western city that the militants captured in May, an Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman said on Monday.
“There are families that managed to escape the gangs of Daesh,” the spokesman, Naseer Nuri, told Reuters, using a local derogatory name for the group.
“There is intelligence information from inside the city that they are preventing families from leaving; they plan to use them as human shields,” he added, without indicating the number of those who had managed to flee.
Iraqi military planes on Sunday dropped leaflets on Ramadi, asking residents to leave within 72 hours and indicating safe routes for their exit.