An Iraqi special forces commander announced on Monday that troops have started pushing into Fallujah as part of the ongoing operation to out ISIS, which continued its relentless campaign of bombings in and around Baghdad.
Brig. Haider al-Obeidi with the elite counterterrorism troops said the push started at dawn on Monday from the southern edge under the cover of coalition air support.
Al-Obeidi described the clashes as “fierce,” with ISIS extremists deploying snipers and releasing a volley of mortar rounds.
The operation to recapture Fallujah, which is located 65 kilometers west of Baghdad, was first announced last week.
Fallujah is one of the last major ISIS strongholds in western Iraq. The extremist group still controls territory in the country’s north and west, as well as Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
In a televised speech Sunday to parliament, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on Fallujah residents to either leave the city or stay indoors.
Government officials and aid groups estimate that more than 50,000 people remain inside the center of the Sunni majority city.
Meanwhile, a wave of bombings claimed by ISIS targeted on Monday commercial areas in Baghdad and near the Iraqi capital, killing at least 24 people.
The bombings, which has been behind several recent deadly attacks in Baghdad and beyond, are seen as an attempt by the militants to distract the security forces’ attention away from the front lines.