In a major setback to the Islamic State (IS or the ISIS), Iraqi security forces have managed to fully liberate the city of Fallujah that was under ISIS occupation for more than two years. According to ABC News, the city of Fallujah was liberated following a month-long battle to clear out the Islamist extremists from there. The last known ISIS stronghold in the city, the al-Julan neighborhood, was cleared of ISIS fighters on Saturday, confirmed Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, the head of the counterterrorism forces who were part of the operation.
Al-Saadi, in an interview with the Associated Press told that the operation “is done and the city is fully liberated.” The Iraqi army had strong support from the U.S.-led coalition that conducted regular airstrikes on known ISIS strongholds. They were also helped by a contingent of paramilitary troops and members of shiite militia.
Al-Saadi was later also seen on Iraqi state TV congratulating the people of Iraq Flanked by senior military officers and commander who were part of the operation. He was heard saying the following.
“From the center of al-Julan neighborhood, we congratulate the Iraqi people and the commander in chief… and declare that the Fallujah fight is over.”
Celebratory gunfire was heard from across the city with several Iraqi fighters seen waving the country’s flag.
Fallujah Liberated. Iraqi forces have now retaken the city that was an ISIS stronghold for 2 years.https://t.co/DZOyE8JurW
— Fox&Friends Weekend (@ffweekend) June 26, 2016
— Warfare Worldwide (@WarfareWW) June 26, 2016
The liberation of Fallujah is a key development in the fight against ISIS, according to experts. The city was the first major Iraqi city to fall into the hands of ISIS when it started its military operations in Iraq and Syria starting late 2013. Located just 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Fallujah was the scene of a bloody battle between the Iraqi and ISIS forces, in which the radical Islamists prevailed. The city was also witness to a major battle between U.S. troops and the al-Qaeda back in 2004, when more than 100 U.S. soldiers were killed in the battle.
The liberation of Fallujah from the control of the ISIS came just a few days after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed that Iraqi troops had entered the city center and that they had taken control of a government building in the city. He had also said that the remaining ISIS fighters from the city would be flushed out within the next few weeks.
The conflict in Fallujah has led to a severe humanitarian crisis, with more than 85,000 residents of the city reportedly fleeing the city. This figure has been confirmed by the UN Refugee Agency. Several government run camps have been set-up in order to help the displaced families. The UNHCR has also warned of a severe crisis at these camps mainly because of the dire conditions in which people live in them. With summer temperatures rising above 40 degrees Celsius (104 F), conditions are expected to remain the same.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) June 23, 2016
Earlier, the Inquisitr had also reported about several thousand residents of the city being caught in the fighting between ISIS and the Iraqi security forces. There were also unconfirmed reports about the ISIS using civilians as human shields during the battle.
While the fight in Fallujah has come to an end, at least for now, the ISIS still controls a large area of Iraq — including the country’s second largest city of Mosul. They have also established a”Caliphate” with the Syrian city of Raqqa as their de-facto capital.
[Photo by AP Photo/Hadi Mizban, File]