BAGHDAD—Iraqi special forces advanced to the edge of Fallujah on Monday but struggled to enter the city, where Iraqi and U.S. officials said Islamic State extremists were amassing civilians to serve as human shields.Continue reading.
The offensive against Fallujah, Islamic State’s second-biggest urban stronghold in Iraq after Mosul, aims to dislodge the Sunni extremists from the Iraqi city they have occupied the longest.
If successful, it could significantly weaken them ahead of an advance on much-larger Mosul, long planned by the government and the U.S.-led coalition supporting its fight against Islamic State.
The Fallujah operation, led so far by Shiite militias and army and police forces, has almost completely cleared the city’s perimeter of Islamic State fighters since it was launched a week ago. But the next, crucial stage of that operation, led by Iraq’s U.S.-trained counterterrorism forces, got off to a fitful start Monday...
Plus, an update, "Iraqi Forces in Fallujah Face Islamic State Counterattacks":
BAGHDAD—Iraqi special forces battling their way into Fallujah faced fierce counterattacks by Islamic State, with commanders of the operation warning that heavily booby-trapped streets in and around the city were hindering the advance.Keep reading.
A day after applauding the beginning of a risky ground assault into the militant-held city, commanders struck a more cautious public tone Tuesday.
The joint-operations center coordinating the government offensive warned about the mines and other explosive devices planted around the city—a tactic commonly used by Islamic State.
The counterattacks took place on Fallujah’s southern edge, Nuaimiya, where counterterrorism forces advanced Monday following a weeklong offensive to surround the city. The U.S.-trained units repelled the two attacks, which included suicide bombers and snipers, said Lt. Gen. Abdelwahab al-Saadi, commander of the operation.
Gen. Saadi said Islamic State was using every possible method it could to slow the government offensive, including flooding farmland.
Fallujah, where aid agencies and Iraqi officials estimate at least 50,000 civilians are trapped, is expected to be a tough and unpredictable urban battleground, even for the elite fighters leading the government push.
While counterterrorism units have battled Islamic State militants inside cities before, including in Ramadi last year, Fallujah is more complicated because of the large numbers of civilians who have been unable or unwilling to flee.
The Sunni city also has long been a stronghold for Sunni extremists, including al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL...