Iraqi Forces Retake Fallujah City Hall

Iraqi Forces Retake Fallujah City HallIraqi Forces Retake Fallujah City Hall

Iraqi government forces have retaken the main government compound in the city of Fallujah from the self-styled Islamic State terrorists, a top commander said.

Lt Gen Abdul Wahhab al-Saadi also told the BBC that elite Counter Terrorism Force troops and rapid response forces had "liberated" the city council building.

They earlier reportedly recaptured several areas to the south and east. Fallujah, only 50 km west of Baghdad, has been held by IS longer than any other city in Iraq or Syria. The militant group overran Fallujah in January 2014, six months before it seized control of large parts of northern and western Iraq.

  Restoring State Authority

Government forces launched the offensive to recapture Fallujah almost four weeks ago, after besieging the city and its suburbs for several months.

On Friday, federal police raised the Iraqi national flag above the city council building, according to a military statement cited by state television. Counter Terrorism Force personnel also entered the area surrounding the Fallujah General Hospital and tightened the siege on it, the statement added.

"The liberation of the government compound, which is the main landmark in the city, symbolizes the restoration of the state's authority," federal police chief, Raed Shaker Jawdat, was quoted as saying by AFP.

Jawdat said government forces had met limited resistance as they advanced and were pursuing militants, who are thought to be regrouping in the west. Earlier, troops and police pushed into other districts in the south and east of Fallujah, including the industrial zone, police and military commanders said.

"This operation was done with little resistance from Daesh," Gen. Saadi said, using an Arabic acronym based on the previous name of IS.

"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."

There was no immediate information about the estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah in dire conditions and with little food or fresh water. IS militants are reported to have used residents as human shields to slow the advance of government forces and limit airstrikes by a US-led coalition. Several civilians have also been killed by militants while attempting to escape the city, including on Monday, a two-year-old boy who was being carried by his mother.