Iraqi forces re-capture center of Fallujah from ISIL

by WorldTribune Staff, June 17, 2016

Iraqi military and security forces seized the main government headquarters in Fallujah on June 17 with little resistance from Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), top Iraqi commanders said.

“The liberation of the government compound, which is the main landmark in the city, symbolizes the restoration of the state’s authority” in Fallujah, said Raed Shaker Jawdat, Iraq’s federal police chief.

Smoke rises from clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants in Falluja, Iraq, on June 17. /Reuters
Smoke rises amid clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL in Fallujah on June 17. /Reuters

As soldiers raised the Iraqi flag above government buildings in the compound, Lt. Gen. Abdulwahab al-Saadi, the operation’s overall commander, told AFP that “Iraqi forces have now liberated 70 percent of the city.”

ISIL took control of Fallujah, which lies 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Baghdad, in 2014, months before the terror organization seized Mosul, the only major Iraqi city left under its control.

“This operation was done with little resistance from Daesh (ISIL),” Saadi said. “There is a mass flight of Daesh to the west that explains this lack of resistance. There are only pockets of them left and we are hunting them down.”

Security officials said a large number of ISIL jihadists were able to slip out of Fallujah by blending in with fleeing civilians in recent days, in some cases paying off security forces.

“The top leaders are mostly gone and those left behind to defend the city are not their best fighters, which explains their performance,” said a security officer speaking on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director John Brennan warned on June 16 that ISIL is still a formidable force with global reach.

“Unfortunately, despite all our progress against ISIL on the battlefield and in the financial realm, our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Brennan said in testimony to Congress.

“The resources needed for terrorism are very modest, and the group would have to suffer even heavier losses of territory, manpower and money for its terrorist capacity to decline significantly. In fact, as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”