According to Iraq Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, Iraqi army units have liberated Ramadi – a city in the country’s west – from the control of the terrorist Islamic State. Speaking on December 28, the officer said that brutal fighting in the weeklong final battle relieved the city from seven months of occupation by ISIS.
Rasool said, “The security forces have entered the governmental buildings and raised the Iraqi flags over them after killing many ISIS militants, and the rest have escaped.” ISIS or ISIL combatants retreated from Ramadi’s government center at approximately 12 noon on December 28. The building complex had served as the terrorists’ last stronghold during their encirclement by Iraqi forces. Sunni tribal militia that had opposed ISIS were also engaged in the climactic combat. U.S. and coalition airstrikes were also credited with bringing ISIS forces to heel by destroying vehicles and staging areas. On December 26, U.S. and coalition air forces used manned aircraft and drones to conduct at least five strikes on ISIS positions in Syria and 28 more within in Iraq. U.S. special forces are on the ground assisting the forces arrayed against the Islamic State.
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In an audio message that was distributed on ISIS websites and social media, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi said that his organization had suffered setbacks. In his December 26 message, Baghdadi said that ISIS will only grow stronger. Addressing Israel, Baghdadi threatened Israel, saying "Palestine will only be your graveyard." The explicit threat, which echoes what has been used by Muslim leaders since the establishment of the modern state of Israel, has been understood by some as an effort to find a common cause among other Muslim entities.
Some elements of ISIS remain entrenched in the city, requiring mop up operations by the Iraqi government anti-terrorism forces. Baghdadi remains defiant, despite the current setback, of the newly created Muslim anti-terror alliance being led by “If this coalition was Islamic, it would have staged a war against the Alawites and the Russians in Syria, it would have announced war against the Shiites and the Kurds in Iraq,” Baghdadi said, while calling on Saudis to join with him.