Iraqi forces launch major push to break IS defences in key city of Ramadi

At least 23 IS fighters were killed on Friday alone, according to some reports

Iraqi forces launch major push to break IS defences in key city of Ramadi

Iraqi security forces supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, advance their position in downtown Ramadi. Image: Uncredited / AP/Press Association Images

Iraqi forces have clashed with Islamic State (IS) jihadists who are defending the former government complex in the heart of Ramadi.

Troops have launched a major push to break IS defences - but have been slowed by snipers, suicide attackers and roadside bombs.

Iraq's counter-terrorism service (CTS) and the army are slowly advancing through the capital of the Anbar province, and have reached a key intersection in the Hoz neighbourhood.

The area is home to the former government complex, the recapture of which would provide a boost to the hopes of fully recapturing Ramadi.

The CTS force's spokesman Sabah al-Numan said: "CTS has cleared Hoz neighbourhood in central Ramadi completely and arrived near the government complex."

A statement issued on behalf of Iraq's interior and defence ministries said the jihadists' use of improvised explosive devices had forced a shift in strategy.

"The plan was to enter Hoz from Dhubbat but because of the mines, CTS changed tack and came in from the river bank," it said.

Two members of the Iraqi security forces have died in the latest fighting, according to police captain Ahmed al Dulaimi.

At least 23 IS fighters were killed on Friday alone, according to some reports.

The number of IS fighters based in central Ramadi is estimated at some 400.

Ramadi was taken by IS in May 2015 after fierce fighting and a blaze of suicide car bombs.

It was the Iraqi forces' worst defeat in the war against IS, and a victory now would give a boost to the often criticised federal forces.

In northern Syria, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab rebels seized a key dam on the Euphrates River from IS fighters.

A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces said they captured Tishreen Dam and seven nearby villages after heavy fighting.

The dam, held by IS since 2014, generates electricity for large parts of the northern Aleppo province.