Iraq: Fallujah Fully liberated From IS 06/26 10:46
A senior Iraqi commander declared that the city of Fallujah was "fully
liberated" from Islamic State group militants on Sunday, after a more than
month-long military operation.
BAGHDAD (AP) -- A senior Iraqi commander declared that the city of Fallujah
was "fully liberated" from Islamic State group militants on Sunday, after a
more than month-long military operation.
Iraqi troops have entered the northwestern al-Julan neighborhood, the last
area of Fallujah to remain under IS control, the head of the counterterrorism
forces in the operation, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, told The Associated
Al-Saadi said the operation, which began in late May, "is done and the city
is fully liberated." The Iraqi army was backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes
and paramilitary troops, mostly Shiite militias.
"From the center of al-Julan neighborhood, we congratulate the Iraqi people
and the commander in chief...and declare that the Fallujah fight is over," he
told Iraqi state TV, flanked by military officers and soldiers. Some of the
soldiers were shooting in the air, chanting and waving the Iraqi flag.
He added that troops will start working on removing bombs from the city's
streets and buildings.
The announcement comes more than a week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider
al-Abadi declared victory in Fallujah after Iraqi forces advanced into the city
center and took control of a government complex. While al-Abadi pledged the
remaining pockets of IS fighters would be cleared out within hours, fierce
clashes on the city's northern and western edges persisted for days.
The operation has fueled an exodus of thousands of families, overwhelming
camps for the displaced run by the government and aid groups.
According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, more than 85,000 people have fled
Fallujah and the surrounding area since the offensive began. Like other aid
agencies, the UNHCR warned of the dire conditions in the camps, where
temperatures are well over 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) and shelter is limited,
calling for more funds to meet the mounting needs of the displaced.
Fallujah has been under the control of Islamic State militants since January
Fallujah, which is located in Anbar province about 40 miles (65 kilometers)
west of Baghdad, was the first city to fall to IS in January 2014. During an
insurgency waged by IS group's militant predecessor, al-Qaida in Iraq, Fallujah
was the scene of some of the bloodiest urban combat with American forces. In
2004, more than 100 U.S. troops died and another 1,000 were wounded fighting
insurgents in house-to-house battles.
IS extremists still control significant areas in northern and western Iraq,
including the country's second-largest city of Mosul. The group declared an
Islamic caliphate on the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria and at the height
of its power was estimated to hold nearly a third of each country.
In total, more than 3.3 million Iraqis have fled their homes since IS swept
across northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014, according to U.N.
figures. More than 40 percent of the displaced are from Anbar province,