Operation Fallujah: Iraqi forces push northwards
Iraqi forces continued their advance into the Islamic State bastion of Fallujah on Tuesday, retaking two of the city's districts from militants, officials said.
A military statement said counter-terrorism forces had captured the northeastern Shurta district, while forces from Baghdad's central operations command took the Askari district.
Meanwhile, intense fighting continued in the northern Jolan neighbourhood as Iraqi and tribal forces came against stiff resistance from IS militants holed up in the city's northern edge.
"Iraqi forces this afternoon tried to storm the northern Jolan neighbourhood, but faced fierce retaliation from Daesh fighters, who used IEDs, rockets and mortar rounds," a local tribal source told The New Arab.
Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahhab al-Saadi, the head of the Iraqi army's operations in Fallujah, said in televised comments that capturing Jolan would be difficult since IS militants who have been dislodged from others parts of the city have holed up in the neighbourhood and fortified their positions.
The US-led coalition on Tuesday said that only a third of Fallujah has been cleared of IS militants, while other parts of the city remain "contested".
US Army Col. Christopher Garver, a spokesman for the coalition, said most of the cleared terrain is in the south of the city and "clearing operations continue outward from the city centre".
|What it looks like is (an IS) defensive belt around the city with not as stiff defences inside.
- US Army Col. Christopher Garver
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday had announced that Fallujah had "returned to the embrace of the nation," after Iraqi forces were able to make their way into the city centre.
"What it looks like is (an IS) defensive belt around the city with not as stiff defences inside," Garver said, explaining that as Iraqi forces move out from the city centre they may encounter additional pockets of stiff resistance.
"That could be their toughest fighting," Garver added.
Meanwhile, Iraqi commanders on the ground say their forces continue to make progress and have killed hundreds of militants.
In Baghdad, a series of attacks in and around the city, including one targeting anti-IS Sunni fighters, killed at least 12 people and wounded 42 others on Tuesday, police and health officials said on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to release information.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of IS. The near-daily attacks are seen by Iraqi officials as an attempt to divert security forces' attention from the front lines.
Fallujah fell under the control of jihadist militants in January 2014 and has been under IS control ever since.