Iraqi troops advance in Fallujah, kill dozens of Daesh militants
Dozens of Takfiri militants have been killed as Iraq launches an offensive to retake one of the two remaining Daesh strongholds, with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi saying the “moment of great victory has drawn near.”
Iraqi jets bombed Daesh positions in Fallujah late Sunday, destroying an explosive-making factory and a court building where the extremist group sentenced many of its victims to death, the al-Sumaria news website reported.
According to volunteer Hashid al-Shaabi sources, troops pounded terrorist positions in northern and northeastern Fallujah with heavy rocket and artillery fire.
The districts of Harariat and al-Lifyah as well as Shahabi were liberated, the al-Forat news agency said Monday.
The offensive is being conducted by the army, police, counter-terrorism forces, local tribal fighters and a coalition of mostly Shia Muslim militias, Prime Minister Abadi said on Sunday.
Security sources said Abadi is personally supervising the operation and had visited the command center near the city to meet military commanders.
Fallujah and Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh, are the last two major cities Daesh still holds in Iraq.
Fallujah is almost completely surrounded by Iraqi forces, who have regained significant ground in Anbar province in recent months, including its capital Ramadi further up the Euphrates River valley.
“We are beginning the operation to liberate Fallujah,” Abadi said in a statement. “The Iraqi flag will be raised high over the land of Fallujah,” he added.
Fallujah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, was the first city to fall to the Takfiris in January 2014, six months before Daesh declared a “caliphate” spanning large parts of Iraq and Syria.
More than 75,000 civilians remain in Fallujah, according to Iraqi officials who have urged them to flee.
Residents, however, say checkpoints controlled by the extremists along roads leading out of the city are preventing most from fleeing.
On Monday, a tribal source said Daesh had imposed a curfew in the city and shut bridges with concrete blocks.
According to the military’s media unit, families who cannot flee should raise white flags to mark their location in the city, a tactic employed with some success during other recent offensives.
“Our goal is to liberate civilians from Daesh’s repression and terrorism,” Abadi said in his televised speech.
The announcement comes at a time when Iraqi ground forces are gaining territory against Daesh, most recently in Iraq’s vast western Anbar province.
Most recently, Iraqi forces recaptured the western town of Rutba in Anbar from the terrorists.
Iraqi forces, however, are expected to face a complicated fight to push Daesh out of Fallujah.
Following recent gains in Rutba and Hit, control of Fallujah would secure the road more than 500 km (300 miles) from Baghdad to the Jordanian border and northwards to Haditha.
But Daesh still controls vast swathes of territory and major cities such as Mosul in the north which Iraqi authorities have pledged to retake this year.