A day after announcing their “final assault” on the ISIS-held city of Fallujah, Iraqi troops have been stalled at the southern gates, in the face of major resistance from ISIS forces. Unlike previous defenses, there was no word of ISIS using suicide attacks, and rather faced the Iraqi military heavily armed in a gun-battle.
The commander of the offensive, Lt. Gen. Abdelwahab al-Saadi, was as upbeat as ever, presenting the fight as the Iraqi forces “repelling” an ISIS attack on the outside of the city, and claiming to have killed 75 ISIS fighters in the process. He offered no details on casualties on the Iraqi military side.
Other Iraqi military officials told a different story, saying the ISIS forces are heavily dug-in in trenches and tunnels around the city outskirts, and keeping Iraqi troops and affiliated militias at a distance in the ongoing offensive.
US officials have conceded that they believe Fallujah will not only be a long, difficult fight for the Iraqi military, but that the troops will likely face hostility from the civilian population as well, as the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab city is averse to being “liberated” by the Shi’ite-dominated military.
Iraqi officials had presented territorial gains around the city suburbs as major wins, but those came largely without resistance. ISIS appears to have decided that the city would be more readily defended at the city level, instead of in the more rural outskirts.
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