Iraqi forces gain ground in Fallujah
FALLUJAH, IRAQ—Iraqi security forces on Thursday fought fierce clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants and retook control of an area near the IS-held city of Fallujah in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, while the U.S.-led air strikes continued against IS positions outside the city, a military statement and a security source said.
The troops and allied paramilitary Shiite and Sunni units, known as Hashd Shaabi, had recaptured al-Tuffaha village and raised the Iraqi flag on nearby remains of a bridge in south of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, the statement from Hashd Shaabi media office said without giving further details.
Meanwhile, the security forces and Hashd Shaabi units continued their battles around the IS-held town of Saqlawiyah in northwest of Fallujah, in an attempt to free the town from IS militants.
The troops’ advance toward Fallujah was slowed down but the battles with IS militants continued around the city as the troops have been facing fierce resistance from the extremist militants inside the city, in addition to hundreds of hidden bombs are believed to be planted by the militants to hamper the advance of the troops.
The security forces also wanted avoid heavy casualties among tens of thousands of civilians who are reportedly trapped inside Fallujah.
Earlier, Brigadier General Yahya Rasoul, spokesman for the Joint Military Command, said that intelligence reports indicate that about 400 to 600 militants are in Fallujah, many of them foreigners. He said about 50,000 to 70,000 civilians are expected to remain in Fallujah.