Iraqi armed forces have fully liberated a key city in the embattled Anbar Province as they continue to gain more ground in their military operations to retake the Daesh-held city of Fallujah.
The Baghdad Operations Command said Saturday that the city of Saqlawiyah, located north of Fallujah, is now under full control of Iraqi soldiers.
Saqlawiyah, located some 50 kilometers west of the capital Baghdad, fell to Daesh in September 2014 after the group laid a siege to the city.
Over the past two weeks, the Iraqi army has been engaged in large-scale military operations to wrest back control of Fallujah. Iraqi forces have freed most areas around the city, but are facing heavy resistance during their advances.
Elsewhere, on the battlefield south of Fallujah, heavy clashes broke out between Iraqi troops and Daesh, who launched an attack targeting units of security forces deployed in the area.
Reports say 27 Daesh militants were killed and several others injured in the clashes. The militants were forced to retreat into Fallujah after suffering heavy losses at the hands of Iraqi forces. Some 14 Daesh members also died in the airstrikes targeting militant hideouts in support of army operations on the ground.No report of casualties among Iraqi forces is available.
In another development, Iraqi forces foiled an attack by Daesh militants on the Ajil oil facility in the city of Tikrit, located 140 kilometers northwest of Baghdad. An Iraqi soldier reportedly lost his life and eight others sustained injuries in the ensuing fighting.
Taking heavy blows from Iraqi forces on the battlefield, Daesh has recently stepped up its activities against civilians inside Fallujah and other areas under their control.
Humanitarian aid groups and residents say Daesh has trapped around 50,000 civilians, including 20,000 children, in Fallujah, threatening those who try to escape with death.
Reports coming out of the area also say Daesh is using the residents of Fallujah as human shields to slow down the advance of Iraqi armed forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says safe corridors have been established to allow some civilians to flee.
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by violence ever since Daesh began an offensive through Iraqi territory in June 2014.
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