Iraqi forces prepare to attack Al Qaeda-controlled Fallujah, 20 killed in Baghdad bombings
Iraq officials told Agence France-Presse Sunday that they are planning a "major attack" on Fallujah to retake the city from Al Qaeda control.
"Iraqi forces are preparing for a major attack in Fallujah," a senior Iraqi official told AFP.
Militants have taken over Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province this week after Iraqi security authorities went to "dismantle" a Sunni protest camp that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki now describes as an "Al Qaeda Headquarters."
Fallujah is presently under the control of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Iraqi security officials told reporters Saturday. ISIL has also seized control of Bubali, a village near Ramadi as of Sunday.
Iraqi ground forces commander Staff General Ali Ghaidan Majeed admitted to reporters that "we do not know what is happening in Fallujah," but said the city should "wait for what is coming [from Iraqi forces]."
However, special forces have already been deployed to conduct operations inside the city and the regular army is posted on the city's outskirts to allow residents time to evacuate before they launch their "attack to crush the terrorists."
More than 160 people were killed in Anbar province between Friday and Saturday in what is considered the "worst violence to hit Anbar province in years."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that Washington would help Baghdad battle against Al Qaeda, but emphasized that it was "Iraq's fight" and that no troops would be sent accordingly.
ISIL's control of Fallujah and other parts of Anbar represents the first time that militants have "exercised such open control" in Iraq's major cities since the insurgency following the US invasion in 2003.
In related news from Iraq Sunday, at least 20 people were killed in a series of bombings in the country's capital, according to the Associated Press.
Two parked vehicles laden with car bombs exploded near a restaurant and tea house in the northern Shiite neighborhood of Shaab killing 10 and wounding 26.
In a separate instance Sunday, a car bomb in Sadr City neighborhood killed five and wounded 10. In the Bab Al Muadham neighborhood, a bomb killed 3 and wounded six.
Two other bombings in the capital left an additional two civilians dead and 13 wounded.