Iraqi forces free town near IS stronghold of Fallujah

Baghdad, June 4 (IANS) Iraqi security forces on Saturday liberated Saqlawiyah town from Islamic State (IS) militants near the IS-held city of Fallujah in the western province of Anbar, a provincial security source said.

Around noon, the forces and allied paramilitary Shia and Sunni units, known as Hashd Shaabi, entered the town in the northwest of Fallujah, and recaptured the central part of it, Xinhua cited the source as saying.

The troops took control of the government building and raised the Iraqi flag while continuing to drive out IS militants from the town, the source said.

The advance in Saqlawiyah came after several days of clashes with the militants.

The troops are fighting to enter Fallujah, but were slowed down by heavy resistance from IS militants inside the city, in addition to hundreds of hidden bombs believed to be planted by the terrorists.

The forces also wanted to avoid heavy casualties among tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Fallujah.

On May 23, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of the offensive to claim Fallujah.

Government troops and allied militias have been fighting for months to reclaim key cities and towns in Anbar from IS militants, who attempted to advance towards Baghdad after seizing most of Anbar province.

–IANS

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