Shia Militia Leader Voices Dismay at Fallujah Operations

Shia Militia Leader Voices Dismay at Fallujah OperationsShia Militia Leader Voices Dismay at Fallujah Operations

The leader of the largest Iraqi Shia paramilitary group has criticized a lack of “precise planning” in war operations to capture Fallujah, the stronghold of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group near Baghdad.

Hadi al-Amiri’s comments, in an interview with Al-Sumaria TV on Sunday, make him the second Shia militia leader to voice dismay at efforts launched on May 23 by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to dislodge the ultra-hardline militants from Fallujah, 50 km west of the Iraqi capital, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately there is an absence of precise planning for the military operations,” said Amiri, the leader of Badr Organization, the largest component of the Popular Mobilization, a coalition of Shia militias that came together two years ago to fight IS with support from Iran.

On Friday, a spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Jawad al-Talabawi, said the operations had come to a near standstill and asked Abadi to order the resumption of attacks.

Popular Mobilization has been fighting alongside the army in Fallujah. Army units are also receiving air support from the US-led coalition.

Abadi said on June 1 the army had slowed its offensive over fears for the safety of tens of thousands of civilians trapped in the city with limited access to water, food and healthcare.

But Amiri accused the authorities of moving military assets away from Fallujah, to the frontlines of Mosul, IS’s de facto capital in northern Iraq.

Several calls to the Iraqi military spokesman since Sunday evening went unanswered. A government spokesman declined to comment. Under the Iraqi Constitution, Abadi is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

“I believe that sending a large part of armored vehicles and assets to Makhmour, under the pretext of Mosul’s battle, is a betrayal to the battle of Fallujah,” Amiri said, referring to a region in northern Iraq.

“Today the military planning and American pressure are aiming to have this major operation conducted in parallel with the operation of liberating Mosul.”

Abadi ordered the offensive on Fallujah after a series of bombings claimed by IS hit Shia districts of Baghdad, causing the worst death toll this year.

Fallujah would be the third major city in Iraq recaptured by the government after former dictator Saddam Hussein’s home town Tikrit and Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s vast western province of Anbar.

Abadi has expressed hope that 2016 will be the year of “final victory” over IS, with the capture of Mosul, their de facto capital in northern Iraq.