Front VIDEO: Iraqi Army Troops Attack Islamic State Militants near Fallujah

Thu May 26, 2016 13:56:26

Iraqi troops concentrated artillery fire on Fallujah’s northern and northeastern neighborhoods on Wednesday morning, the third day of an assault to retake the militant stronghold just west of Baghdad, as international concern mounted for the security of civilians.

The offensive is part of a government campaign to roll back Islamic State’s (Daesh / ISIS / ISIL) seizure of wide tracts of northern and western Iraq.

Baghdad’s forces retook Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital near Fallujah, in December but have not yet tackled a bigger challenge - ISIS-held Mosul, Iraq's largest northern city.

An Iraqi military spokesman said troops were trying to tighten the encirclement of Fallujah by advancing on the western front, near the village of Khalidiya.

“There is a resistance, but our forces are crushing resistance quickly as troops are advancing from all the directions. All the forces are advancing from all the directions according to the plan and at the same time. Daesh [ISIS] is collapsing and retreating towards Fallujah,” said head of Baghdad Operations Command General Abdul Amir al-Shimmari who inspected on Wednesday Iraqi forces and Hashid Shaabi in Sijariya area, east of Fallujah.

The Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq, a hardline political organization formed after Saddam’s ouster to represent Sunnis, has condemned the assault on Fallujah as “an unjust aggression, a reflection of the vengeful spirit that the forces of evil harbor against this city.”

Iraq’s top Shia Muslim cleric urged government forces battling to retake Fallujah from Islamic State (Daesh / ISIL) militants to spare civilians trapped in the city.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani’s appeal reflected concerns that a large civilian death toll in the battle for the mainly Sunni Muslim city could aggravate sectarian tensions in Iraq.

Sistani wields enormous influence over Iraq’s Shias. It was at his call that Shia militias regrouped in 2014 in a coalition known as Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization), to stem Islamic State's advance through the north and west.

Hashid Shaabi will take part in encircling Fallujah but will not enter the city unless the Iraqi army fails in doing so, said Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Organization, the largest component of the Shia coalition, Reuters reported.

S/SH 11

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