Iraqi PM promises victory in Fallujah as army prepare launch against militants
Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki reiterated his promise to eradicate al-Qaeda from the city of Fallujah on a televised speech on Wednesday as his army prepared to launch a major assault against the Sunni Islamist militants.
The prime minister stated he was sure of the army's victory and urged militants and their supporters to surrender, promising leniency.
He also took the opportunity to thank the international community for its support in the fight against al-Qaeda.
"The support ... is giving us the confidence that we are moving on the right course and that the result will be clear and decisive: uprooting this corrupted organization," Maliki said.
"We will continue this fight because we believe that al-Qaeda and its allies represent evil."
Fighters from the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), took over police stations in Fallujah and another city in Iraq's western Anbar province last week.
The event marked the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In response, the army deployed more tanks and artillery around the city on Tuesday as local leaders tried to coax militant leaders into leaving to avoid an inevitable attack from Iraqi troops.
"We don't want this city to suffer and we will not use force, as long as the tribes announce their readiness to confront al-Qaeda and expel it," Maliki said.
Two years after U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq, Sunni militants have regained power, strengthened by the war in Syria and widespread Sunni Arab anger with the federal government. The militant group have stated it aims to create a Sunni religious state spanning the border into Syria's rebel-held eastern provinces.
The United States said it would expedite deliveries of military equipment including drone and missiles to Iraq to aid in the assault, but would refrain from sending troops.
While traffic police had returned to duty in the city of Fallujah, the area still remains out of the control of the Iraqi government.