An Iraqi Security Forces soldier takes position near the "Green Zone" in Baghdad, Iraq. On July 26, 2015, the Iraqi military assaulted a major Islamic State command base inside Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar province. The attack is part of a wider offensive the Baghdad government has committed against IS forces in Anbar. File photo by Mitchell Prothero/UPI | License Photo

Iraqi government forces assault Islamic State command base in Ramadi
The loss of the University of Anbar complex would cut off retreating Islamic State fighters from resupply routes, according to the Iraqi government.
By Fred Lambert Contact the Author | July 26, 2015 at 6:20 PM

RAMADI, Iraq, July 26 (UPI) -- Iraqi government forces have begun assaulting a command headquarters for Islamic State fighters in the city of Ramadi, according to reports.

The University of Anbar complex is a "significant stronghold and a key command base" for IS forces in Ramadi, the BBC quoted Sabah al-Noamani, a spokesman for Iraq's counter-terrorism forces, as saying.

Iraqi forces are trying to cut the base off from Ramadi's other districts in order to deprive retreating IS fighters of supply routes.

Backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, the thrust into Ramadi is part of a wider offensive by the Iraqi military into Anbar province that began earlier this month. Dozens of people died on both sides during fighting near Fallujah, Haditha and other locations in the province last week.

IS militants sent Iraqi security forces fleeing from Ramadi in May, but the extremists controlled portions of the city, as well as much of the Anbar province, since January 2014. There are an estimated 2,000 IS fighters holding Ramadi.

Shortly before U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter made a surprise visit to Baghdad last week, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters that Iraqi security forces were "beginning to isolate Ramadi from multiple directions" in order to "place a noose around the city."

"This is classic maneuver warfare," he said.

Iraqi government troops were able to capture Tikrit from the extremists in April but were heavily reliant on coalition air power and Iran-trained Shia militias known as Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashd Shaabi. The militiamen had to be pulled from the city after reports of illegal killings, looting and arson.

The Shia fighters were mobilized after the loss of Ramadi, which is the capital of Sunni-dominated Anbar province.

The United States has led an international air campaign, known as Operation Inherent Resolve, against IS since the group seized large tracts of land in Iraq after spilling over from Syria last year. Australia, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have conducted airstrikes against the group in Iraq, while Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have flown sorties against it in Syria. Jordan, Canada and the United States have conducted airstrikes against IS in both countries.

The U.S. State Department in June said the coalition killed at least 10,000 IS fighters since forming last summer but also acknowledged it would probably take another thee to five years to defeat the group in Iraq.

According to United Nations estimates, violence has killed nearly 15,000 civilians in Iraq since the start of 2014 to the end of April 2015, while more than 29,000 have been wounded.