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Iraqi forces surround Fallujah in battle against Islamic State

Published 29/05/2016

Iraq's elite counter-terrorism forces gather ahead of an operation to re-take the Islamic State-held City of Fallujah (AP)
Iraq's elite counter-terrorism forces gather ahead of an operation to re-take the Islamic State-held City of Fallujah (AP)

Iraq's special forces troops have surrounded Fallujah ahead of an operation to retake the Islamic State-held city west of Baghdad.

The Iraqi government teamed up with paramilitary troops to launch a large-scale offensive, backed by aerial support from the US-led coalition, to dislodge militants from IS, also known as Daesh, from Fallujah last week.

The city, about 40 miles west of Baghdad, is one of the last major IS strongholds in Iraq. The extremist group still controls territory in the country's north and west, including Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

The last battalion from Iraq's Special Forces Service arrived at dawn on Sunday at the Tariq Camp outside Fallujah.

Troops have recaptured 80% of the territory around the city since the operation began and are currently battling IS to the north-east as they seek to tighten the siege ahead of a planned final push into the city centre.

Soldier Ali al-Shimmari said: "I'm totally ready for it. I phoned my family in the morning and asked them to pray for me to get back safe to them. I'm determined to end Daesh."

The militants, meanwhile, launched an attack on Sunday on the town of Hit, 85 miles west of Baghdad, which was recaptured by government troops last month.

A military officer said the extremists entered three neighbourhoods and were engaged in heavy clashes with Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes.

By afternoon, the forces managed to push the militants out from two neighbourhoods, while fighting continued in another.

Fallujah, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the 2003-2011 military intervention, was the first city in Iraq to fall to IS.

The extremists seized control of Fallujah in January 2014, six months before they swept across northern and western Iraq and declared a caliphate.

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