Iraqi forces ‘retake Falluja city hall’

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Moscow, June 17 (IANS) Iraqi government forces on Friday said they have retaken the main government compound in the city of Falluja from Islamic State militants.

A statement said the Iraqi flag was raised above the city council building after its capture by Counter Terrorism Force troops, police and soldiers.

They earlier reportedly recaptured several areas to the south and east.

Falluja has been held by IS longer than any other city in Iraq or Syria.

The jihadist group overran the predominantly Sunni Arab area in January 2014, six months before it seized control of large parts of northern and western Iraq.

Government forces launched the offensive to recapture Falluja almost four weeks ago, after besieging the city and its suburbs for several months.

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On Friday morning, troops and police pushed into the city centre and retook the city council building, commander Lt Gen Abdul Wahhab al-Saadi told the BBC.

Falluja’s capture would represent a significant blow to IS morale, recruitment and funding. Being a mere 50 km west of Baghdad, it might also relieve some pressure on the Iraqi capital as well.

The UN says about 68,000 people have now fled Falluja since the government offensive began on May 23, although Medecins Sans Frontieres and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) put the figure at closer to 30,000.



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