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Officials: Iraqi troops seize parts of Ramadi from Islamic State

Security officials say Iraqi forces took key western parts of the city from IS fighters but face slow progress moving east, where the city is ridden with roadside bombs.

By Fred Lambert

RAMADI, Iraq, April 21 (UPI) -- Iraqi security forces and allied Sunni militias took back key parts of the city of Ramadi on Tuesday, officials say.

The move is the latest reversal for the Islamic State, which recently lost up to 25 percent of the territory it seized after blitzing into Iraq's north and west last summer, according to U.S. estimates.

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Security officials in Anbar province, of which Ramadi is the capital, said government forces, with the backing of Sunni tribal fighters and coalition airstrikes, took key areas in the city's west, including a hospital where militants barricaded themselves on Tuesday before running out of ammunition and blowing themselves up.

On April 17, U.S. Central Command reported 13 total airstrikes in Iraq, including two in Ramadi that destroyed a heavy machine gun position, vehicles and an IS tactical unit.

Iraqi security forces now face a slow advance into Ramadi's east, which IS forces have littered with roadside bombs.

IS also claims to be making advances in Ramadi, according to the BBC.

According to United Nations estimates, the recent fighting in Anbar has displaced at least 90,000 civilians, mostly from Ramadi.

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The Iraqi army's recapture of Tikrit earlier this month was also slowed by heavy resistance but eventually prevailed with the help of coalition air power and Iran-backed Shia militias. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi was forced to withdraw the militias after widespread reports of arson, looting and illegal executions.

Last week Abadi said Iraqi forces would focus efforts toward taking back IS territory in Anbar and in the town of Baiji, which is home to an important oil refinery, but IS forces pushed back with their own offensives.

Iraqi forces secured the Beiji Oil Refinery over the weekend, according to CENTCOM.

On Tuesday CENTCOM reported that more than 3,200 airstrikes have been launched against IS forces in both Iraq and Syria since August, but echoed remarks made by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who, during a visit to troops in the region, said real victory could only be secured by Iraqi forces, which "must take the lead and take responsibility."

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