RAMADI, Iraq: Iraqi troops failed to recapture jihadist-held areas of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi in a night-time assault that left four civilians dead, medical and security officials said on Tuesday.
Fighters loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were still in control of the south of the city, west of Baghdad, after fighting off the assault, police said.
“Security forces and armed tribesmen tried last night to enter areas controlled by the ISIL in the south of the city,” a police captain in Ramadi told Agence France-Presse.
“Clashes erupted at 11 pm and ended this morning at 6 a.m. The security forces failed to enter these areas and ISIL is still in control.”
Four civilians were killed and 14 wounded in the fighting, Dr Ahmed Abdel Salam of Ramadi hospital told Agence France-Presse.
He had no figures for any casualties in the ranks of either the army or the jihadists.
ISIL loyalists took advantage of a surge of anger among Sunni Arabs at the clearance of a year-old protest camp outside Ramadi on December 30 to seize large swathes of the city and the whole of Fallujah to its east.
Three loud explosions were heard outside Fallujah on Tuesday, a witness said.
The army was continuing to hold positions outside the city to allow civilians time to leave before launching an assault, security sources said.
“Today the army deployed new reinforcements backed by tanks and armored vehicles to an area about 15 kilometers east of Fallujah,” a police captain told Agence France-Presse.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered the army to prepare an offensive to regain control of both Fallujah and Ramadi.
But he has said he wants to give Anbar province’s heavily armed tribes time to expel ISIL fighters before going ahead.