A month-long battle has ended in victory for Iraqi government forces as they ended the Islamic State’s control over the Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah, located about one hour’s drive west of the capital city of Baghdad.
From the Washington Post (“Iraqi forces expel Islamic State from Fallujah“):
There was a celebratory mood in the city as pickup trucks ferried around cheering members of the security forces, who unloaded volleys of bullets into the air in jubilation. While the city appeared to be under their control, commanders conceded that militants could be hiding out.
The Sunni city 45 miles west of Baghdad was the first in Iraq or Syria to be captured by the Islamic State, about 21 / 2 years ago. Fallujah was a quagmire for U.S. service members during the Iraq War, so there were expectations that it could be a bloody and drawn-out fight this time, too. But the Iraqi military made quick progress after breaking through defense lines outside the city earlier this month.
The loss of Fallujah deals a significant blow to the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, which has been steadily shrinking as Iraqi forces have advanced with the help of airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition. Even before the Fallujah operation, the militant group had lost an estimated 40 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq.
But parts of the Sunni city, once home to 300,000 people, are still laced with roadside bombs. In the narrow streets of the old-city area, secured earlier Sunday, an officer urged caution as he pointed out a booby trap, its yellow wires leading out of the ground and over the gate into a nearby house. …
While some neighborhoods, particularly on the outskirts of the city, have suffered extensive damage, others are largely intact, raising hopes among residents who were forced to flee. Tens of thousands are now stuck in desert camps with little assistance.
“It’s still too early to speak of returns,” said Nasr Muflahi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Iraq director. “We just do not know which areas are safe and which aren’t.”