Baghdad: Iraqi security forces on Monday launched the final stage of an offensive aimed at freeing the city of Fallujah and nearby areas from the Islamic State (IS) militant group, security sources said.
“The troops and allied Shia and Sunni paramilitary units, known as Hashd Shaabi, started their advance in the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, to free it from IS group,” Xinhua news agency quoted Sabah Nu’man, spokesman of anti-terrorism force, as saying.
The troops, covered by US-led coalition and Iraqi aircraft, have faced weak resistance so far, Nu’man said, adding that many of the extremist militants were killed during the operation.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces and Hashd Shaabi units recaptured Shieha area north of the IS-held town of Saqlawiyah, northwest of Fallujah, after fierce clashes with IS militants, a local security source said.
Monday’s operation came a day after the security forces said they have completed preparation for a final attack to retake Fallujah.
On May 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of the offensive to retake Fallujah city.
The announcement was made at a time when the country is grappling with a chaos surrounding cabinet reshuffle.
Earlier, the interior ministry said the army has almost accomplished the first stage of tightening siege on Fallujah and will soon start to break into the city.
Government troops and allied militias have currently been fighting for months to reclaim key cities and towns in Anbar from IS militants, who have been attempting to advance toward Baghdad after seizing most of Anbar province.