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Iraqi security forces say they have control of the government compound in Ramadi

The government expects to have complete control of Ramadi soon

CNN  — 

Iraqi forces have retaken control of a government compound long held by ISIS in Ramadi, an important gain that could signal ISIS’ imminent exit from the key city.

Following days of fighting as ISIS militants fought to defend the compound, the resistance ended, and Iraqi forces found that the ISIS fighters had withdrawn, Col. Mohammed Ibrahim , a spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, told CNN.

“The government compound is under our full control,” Ibrahim said. “This does not mean we have entered the compound. It means it is fully surrounded and fully under our control.”

Most ISIS fighters, who had been using the government compound as a headquarters, fled or were killed in airstrikes and fighting on the ground, Ibrahim said.

Ramadi, a predominantly Sunni Arab city west of Baghdad, fell to ISIS in May, a major setback in the country’s campaign to contain the terror group.

Now, the Iraqi government says it plans to have a flag-raising ceremony at the recaptured compound on Monday and is predicting the complete retaking of Ramadi in the coming days.

Iraqi security forces are advancing slowly, as ISIS left improvised explosive devices on the streets and in buildings.

Who is fighting?

Ramadi has strategic importance: Anbar province is the heartland of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim population and the city is close to Baghdad.

Government officials said there are no Shiite militias involved in fighting on the front lines to liberate Ramadi.

Iraqi security forces, including the military, counterterror units and federal police, are conducting all the storming operations underway inside Ramadi’s city limits, according to an adviser to Anbar’s governor.

Ramadi also has symbolic significance. After Iraqi forces pulled out of the city in the spring, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter questioned whether the Iraqis had the “will to fight.”