Iraq Stalls Fallujah Assault 'To Protect Civilians'

Iraq Stalls Fallujah Assault 'To Protect Civilians'

Iraq has delayed its assault on the city of Fallujah because of fears for the safety of civilians, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, as his forces halted at the city's edge in the face of ferocious resistance from (ISIS) fighters.

Abadi's decision to wait, two days after elite Iraqi troops poured into the city's rural southern outskirts, postpones what was expected to be one of the biggest battles ever fought against ISIS.

The government, backed by world powers including the United States and Iran, has vowed to win back the first major Iraqi city that fell to the group in 2014.

But Abadi said the safety of the city's civilians had to be considered.

"The main target of the operation now is to reduce the number of victims among civilians and also to minimize losses among our armed forces. The enemy has planted many bombs. However, we may raise the Iraqi flag inside Fallujah in the coming few days," he told journalists outside the operations room on the outskirts of Fallujah.

Abadi first announced plans to assault Fallujah 10 days ago. But with 50,000 civilians still believed trapped inside the city, the United Nations has warned that militants are holding hundreds of families in the center as human shields.

After heavy resistance from ISIS fighters, the troops have not moved over the past 48 hours, keeping their positions in Fallujah's mainly rural southern suburb of Naimiya, according to a Reuters TV crew reporting from the area.