Iraq News

Residents return to Ramadi after ISIL defeat

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad

Iraqi children displaced from Baiji in Salaheddine province celebrate with Iraqi forces after returning to their city. [Photo courtesy of the Joint Operations Command]

Iraqi children displaced from Baiji in Salaheddine province celebrate with Iraqi forces after returning to their city. [Photo courtesy of the Joint Operations Command]

As military operations to liberate al-Khalidiya Island from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) move ahead, residents displaced from nearby Ramadi are returning in large numbers, Iraqi officials told Mawtani.

On July 2nd, the Joint Operations Command announced the launch of an operation to liberate the island with the participation of units from the 8th and 10th Divisions, reporting to Anbar Operations Command.

A 9th Division tank battalion, engineering and artillery units, the Iraqi air force and coalition aircraft also are taking part in the operation.

"Ramadi city centre is now completely safe after operations to liberate al-Khalidiya Island began," Ramadi governor Ibrahim al-Awsaj told Mawtani.

The operation brought the threats, rocket attacks and mortar shelling that had previously targeted the outskirts of the city to an end, he said.

The improved security situation has sparked an increase in the number of families returning to the city, al-Awsaj said.

About 40,000 displaced families -- roughly 300,000 people -- have returned to Ramadi since April, he said.

"What hinders the return of other waves of displaced people are some service and logistics issues, as well as the commitment of displaced students to their schools in areas to which they were displaced," he said.

The number of returnees will probably increase after the final exams conclude, he added, as students finish up their academic year at schools outside Ramadi.

The liberation of al-Khalidiya Island will stamp out ISIL's presence in central and eastern Anbar, al-Awsaj said, and will secure the return of displaced residents to the island, who account for about a tenth of the province's displaced residents.

Iraqi forces making gains

Displaced residents of al-Khalidiya and Ramadi districts "are eagerly awaiting the gains achieved by the Iraqi army against ISIL to be able to return to their homes", said deputy mayor of al-Khalidiya district Ahmed Abed al-Dulaimi.

He told Mawtani he receives many calls from residents displaced to Erbil and elsewhere asking about the progress of the battles for al-Khalidiya Island and Ramadi.

"Iraqi Army military units from the 10th Division are making gains on the ground and already recovered parts of al-Khalidiya Island," he said.

"However, its vast area and its extension into the depths of the desert necessitates sending additional reinforcements from the army for the liberation of the entire island and the restoration of security and stability to it," he added.

The liberation of al-Khalidiya Island should coincide with the battle to liberate a desert area known as Ramadi Island, he said, in order to fully destroy the last pockets of ISIL in Anbar and secure them from any possible breaches.

"Iraqi forces were able to liberate Albu Obaid area so far and are planning to storm Zawyia area in al-Khalidiya Island," Anbar Operations Commander Maj. Gen. Ismail Mahlawi told Mawtani.

"The Iraqi army seeks to liberate the island completely and raise the Iraqi flag over the buildings, securing the supply lines north and east of Ramadi and giving momentum for the upcoming battles in western Anbar towns," he said.

The push to liberate al-Khalidiya Island follows the completion of operations to liberate Ramadi and Fallujah, ISIL's key strongholds in Anbar, he said.

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Well done