At least 13 civilians have been killed by a roadside bomb while attempting to flee from ongoing fighting between Iraqi government forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in Ramadi.
Military sources told Al Jazeera that the civilians, including seven women and three children, died on Sunday when the bomb blew up in al-Bu Ghanim village, in Sufiyah district, in the city’s east.
Iraqi forces, backed by air strikes conducted by the international coalition, recently pushed ISIL fighters out of central Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, months after the armed group captured the key city about 100km west of Baghdad.
Since recapturing Ramadi in late December, Iraqi forces have continued to battle ISIL fighters, who regrouped in eastern parts of the city.
On Sunday, the two sides traded blows, with 17 ISIL fighters killed and 12 Iraqi soldiers killed in clashes.
Despite the losses, Iraqi military sources told Al Jazeera that their advance on ISIL’s new stronghold had met little resistance.
Taking back eastern Ramadi is key for the Iraqi forces, as it will help to secure the main highway to the Habaniyah military base about 30km east of the city.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Baghdad, said on Sunday that the Iraqi forces’ attempts to clear the city of ISIL fighters were taking longer than had been expected.
“The fight is going a little slower than the Iraqi army promised. It’s a precarious situation,” he said.
In May, Ramadi fell to ISIL, which has seized territory in both Iraq and Syria, in an embarrassing setback for Iraqi forces. But analysts say recapturing the city could deprive ISIL of its biggest prize of 2015.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say order is being restored to the eastern city of Miqdadiyah, which was the scene of an ISIL-claimed attack last week that killed at least 20 people.
Saleem al-Juburi, Iraq’s parliamentary speaker, said at a press conference on Sunday that the perpetrators would be brought to justice soon.
“There are criminals that the government is aware of. And those who say that we don’t know who they are, I tell them we do,” he said.
Juburi said it was too easy for armed groups to gain access to weapons in Miqdadiyah.