Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said that Iraqi forces have retaken the center of the city of Fallujah from fighters with the so-called 'Islamic State' (IS). They hope now to be able to regain control of Mosul.
Iraqi forces had retaken the city center of Fallujah on Saturday and begun scouring the area for holdout jihadis, according to the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The latest in a series of territory losses for IS militants means that Baghdad can concentrate on retaking Mosul, Iraq's second city and the last IS stronghold in the country.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared Fallujah retaken as the flag of Iraq was raised over the city's main government compound, but some IS militants remained in neighborhoods on the northern edge of Fallujah.
Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, the commander of the operation,said that special forces were continuing their push to force the last remaining IS fighters out of the city.
Saadi said that Iraqi soldiers had faced only limited resistance in the campaign to recapture the city. Security sources have voiced concern that IS fighters were disguising themselves to blend in with fleeing civilians.
Moving on to Mosul
To capitalize on the momentum gained in Fallujah, Baghdad announced on Saturday that Iraqi soldiers would join with Kurdish forces to begin a siege of Mosul from the south. The campaign will also be supported by US-led airstrikes. To that end, the first stage of fighting concentrated on the strategic town of Qayyara, home to an air base that could prove instrumental in the fight for Mosul.
The ancient city of Mosul is Iraq's second most populous city and was home to about two and a half million people before its occupation by IS in June 2014.
es/jm (AFP, dpa)