Iraqi forces evacuate civilians, prepare to invade Fallujah
Iraqi soldiers on the outskirts of Fallujah. (AFP/File)
The Iraqi government told residents of Fallujah on Sunday to flee their city because a military coalition plans to retake the city from Daesh.
Civilian families would be allowed to leave the city through designated safe zones, the military's Joint Operations Command said. Those who cannot leave should raise white flags, according to a broadcast on state TV.
The command did not say when the operation would take place by the Iraqi army, counterterrorism forces, police, tribal fighters and Shia militias.
About 20,000 federal police officers with armored vehicles and artillery are on the outskirts of Fallujah "in preparation for storming the city," Lt Gen. Raeed Shakir Jawdat, commander of the federal police, said in a statement.
Fallujah is one of the last holdings in Iraq by the IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.
The city on the Euphrates River had a pre-war population of about 300,000. It has been encircled by Iraqi forces and a coalition of Shia Muslim armed groups known as Hashid Shaabi.
Eissa al-Issawi, the exiled mayor of Fallujah, said Daesh militants were retreating from the outskirts to the center of the city Sunday.
The recapture of Fallujah would leave Mosul as Daesh's only major foothold in Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spoke with President Barack Obama on Saturday night, according to the White House. The prime minister gave an update on progress in Anbar province and vowed that Fallujah would be liberated soon.
Obama reaffirmed US support for Iraqi Security Forces, emphasizing its key role in defeating Daesh. He noted the United States and the International Coalition will continue to train, advise and assist Iraqi forces.
Daesh took control of Fallujah in December 2013.
By Allen Cone
Editor's note: This article has been edited from the original.
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