On June 17th, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared that most of the city of Fallujah had been retaken, and the Iraq national flag was again raised over the main government compound. While this is good news, ISIS fighters still held many of the city’s northern neighborhoods.
Iraqi forces continued to hunt down jihadists in Fallujah after the PM’s message, and are making progress in bringing the city under control. Once Falluljah is cleared, plans are to move on to Mosul. It has been stated that Mosul is the last of the major hubs that ISIS controls.
The fighting in the northern part of the city is being done by Iraqi Special Forces; the southern part of the city is being cleared by Anbar province police forces. In both cases, progress is slowed by hidden explosive devices that have to be found and disarmed. Some reports state that ISIS even booby-trapped many homes of civilians.
The operation to retake Fallujah has been going on for about four weeks now and commanders have stated that the ISIS forces in the city have not fought back with much force as they were pushed back into the center of the city. Many ISIS fighters are said to be leaving the city by hiding in among civilians who are leaving the city.
The flood of people leaving the city caused the Norwegian Refugee Council to call the exodus “an unprecedented tidal wave of mass displacement from Fallujah.” According to reports, as many as 20,000 people fled the city on one day (June 17), and that many even attempted to swim across the Euphrates River in order to get to safety.
The Council went on to say: “It is unknown how many families are still trapped inside Fallujah but we are concerned they are the most vulnerable — pregnant women, elderly people, people with disabilities.”
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