Iraqi Forces Enter Fallujah
Iraqi forces on Friday (June 17) entered the center of Fallujah, the Iraqi city longest held by Islamic State (ISIS), nearly four weeks after the start of a U.S.-backed offensive that cleared out the tens of thousands of residents still there.
Government troops, supported by multiple air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition, recaptured the municipal building, though the ultra-hardline militants still controlled a significant portion of Fallujah, an hour's drive west of Baghdad, and many streets and houses remain mined with explosives.
Federal police raised the Iraqi state flag above the government building and continued pursuing insurgents, according to a military statement.
Speaking to Reuters on Saturday (June 18), a brigadier general of the federal police said allied Iraqi forces were forcing Isis out of areas of the city.
"Army aviation, the Iraqi air force and coalition air forces played a major and significant role that helped our troops in their advancement," added Jaleel Abdulridha Al-Shureifi.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory shortly after nightfall, as government forces continued pushing into parts of the city held by the militants.
Security forces have "tightened their control inside the city and there are still some pockets that need to be cleansed in the coming hours," he said in a brief speech on state television.
Troops could be seen coming under sniper fire earlier in the day as they entered a large mosque about 100 meters (300 feet) from the municipal building. Clashes also involved gun fire, artillery and aerial bombardment, sending clouds of smoke towards the sky above the city center.
Heavily armed Interior Ministry police units were advancing along Baghdad Street, the main east-west road running through the city, and commandos from the counter-terrorism service (CTS) had surrounded Fallujah hospital, the military statement said.