RAMADI, Iraq, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Iraqi military reinforcements gathered Tuesday for an anticipated assault against Ramadi, the capital of western Iraq's Anbar province, as continued clashes with the Islamic State killed dozens across the country.
Maj. Gen. Ismail Mahlawi, commander of operations in Anbar, told IraqiNews.com reinforcement units, including "artillery batteries and tanks," arrived at his command Tuesday, adding "our last battle is storming the city of Ramadi, which will be launched in the next few days after the completion of all preparations."
Xinhua news agency quoted a provincial security source who confirmed the development, saying the reinforcements were gathering in the nearby town of Khaldiyah. The source said Iraqi military units were able to in recent weeks encircle Ramadi after multiple bloody battles with IS forces in surrounding towns.
IS fighters seized most of Ramadi in May, and while the Iraqi military, backed by U.S. air power and Iran-trained Shia militias, launched an offensive across Anbar province in mid July, gains have been limited.
Several families are now evacuating Ramadi in anticipation of the coming attack, Xinhua quoted Ali Dawood, head of the town hall of Khaldiyah, as saying.
Preliminary rocket and artillery barrages against IS positions in Ramadi and Khaldiyah Island, east of the city, killed dozens of IS fighters on Monday, Ibrahim al-Fahdawi, head of the security committee in Khaldiyah, told IraqiNews.com.
Dozens of people were meanwhile killed Tuesday in northern, western and central Iraq during clashes between pro-government forces and IS militants, including in the Anbar province town of Garma, east of Fallujah.
Shia militias known as Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Committees, killed at least seven jihadists in the IS-held town, Col. Ahmed Karim Bedaiwi, commander of the 2nd Hashid Shaabi Regiment, told IraqiNews.com.
Xinhua, quoting a security source who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported Kurdish peshmerga fighters repelled an IS assault on the town of Makhmour, in Nineveh province, southwest of Mosul in northern Iraq, killing at least eight militants.
The Hashid Shaabi and Iraqi security forces likewise killed dozens of IS fighters and lost one Shia militiaman during clashes at a base east of Tikrit, the capital of Saladin province, Xinhua quoted a provincial security source as saying.
Last month, the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced a "second phase" in the liberation of Saladin province as security forces began advancing on various locations, including the IS-held oil refinery in the town of Baiji.
The assault's first phase was in April, when Iraqi troops captured Tikrit, mainly with the help of the Hashid Shaabi and U.S. airstrikes.
Baghdad pulled Hashid Shaabi forces from the Sunni Arab city after reports surfaced alleging looting, arson and illegal killings. U.S. officials assert they did not work directly with the Shia militias, which are trained and equipped by Iran.
U.S. Central Command on Tuesday said the U.S.-led coalition conducted 16 airstrikes against IS forces in Iraq the previous day, including one near Fallujah, seven near Sinjar, two near Tal Afar, four near Ramadi and two near Albu Hayat.
Ali Ibrahim Dbon, commander of al-Jazeera and al-Badiya Operations, told IraqiNews.com on Tuesday 65 IS fighters had been killed during operations in the Albu Hyat area of Anbar province, while five vehicles used by the militants were destroyed and 75 explosive devices dismantled.