TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iraqi forces have surrounded Fallujah and completed the first phase of their assault to retake the city from the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group, officials announced.
A defense ministry spokesman told Al Jazeera on Saturday that Iraqi forces were closing in on Fallujah, which has been under Daesh control since January 2014.
”Phase one is over and we have achieved our objectives,” Brigadier Rasool Yahya said. “Our forces have isolated and surrounded the city of Fallujah.”
Security forces have safely evacuated many residents away from the outskirts of the city – but some 50,000 people are still trapped inside.
“We are advancing on and closing in … We are ready and the presence of civilians inside the city could delay us,” Yahya said. “The enemy left the outskirts and stationed itself inside Fallujah.”
Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces – made up of military, police and volunteer forces last week launched an offensive to retake the city.
Iraqi military officials insisted that safe corridors would be established to allow civilians to flee, but residents said Daesh checkpoints along the city’s main roads have made escape nearly impossible.
Fallujah is one of only two major Iraqi cities – the other being Mosul – still controlled by Daesh.