ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi forces have control of around fifty percent of Fallujah and fighting is ongoing in the northern part of the town, according to a Rudaw reporter.
The Iraqi army is locked in fierce battles with Islamic State militants in the northern part of the city, said Rudaw’s correspondent at the scene, Bahman Hassan. About half of the city, the southern side, has been reclaimed from the group but the northern half is still held by ISIS, he estimated.
ISIS has been defending itself with the few weapons remaining in their possession, Hassan added.
An Iraqi army commander, speaking with Rudaw, said that most of the streets and alleys of the town have been wired with bombs.
“ISIS has bombed the majority of the streets and alleys of Fallujah but the Iraqi counter-terror forces were able to clear the Fallujah Hospital and the Iraqi army cleared the industrial neighborhood of the militants,” said Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, general commander of the Fallujah offensive, adding “advances into Muzafin [neighborhood] are ongoing.”
Out of fear of coalition airstrikes, Saadi explained, ISIS has dug trenches for cover which have multiple exits.
Another army commander inside Fallujah was more optimistic about the army’s progress, telling Rudaw that the Iraqi army’s missions were successfully accomplished in Fallujah.
“Things were going according to plan and, by hitting designated targets in the town, ISIS terrorists were eliminated. We obtained victory. In this light, I congratulate the Iraqi people,” said Brig Gen. Satar Jabbar.
The Iraqi army entered downtown Fallujah on Friday morning, raising the Iraqi national flag over the main government complex and claiming to have liberated 70% of the city.
“Iraqi forces are now in the center of the city. They had not been there since the beginning of 2014,” said Commander Brig. Haidar al-Obeidi of the Iraqi special forces on Friday.
“Iraqi forces have now liberated 70 percent of the city,” claimed Saadi.
An estimated 40,000 civilians have fled the city since the Iraqi forces’ offensive began in late May.
Recent army advances have allowed large numbers of civilians to escape, overwhelming aid agencies.
Security officials fear that many militants may have fled the city with thousands of civilians.