Iraq PM: Concern for people slowing Fallujah op

2016-06-01 20:32
Soldiers of the Basra regiment of Iraqi counterterrorism forces take up their positions during the fight for Fallujah. (Khalid Mohammed, AP)

Soldiers of the Basra regiment of Iraqi counterterrorism forces take up their positions during the fight for Fallujah. (Khalid Mohammed, AP)

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Baghdad - Concern for the plight of tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Fallujah was slowing the operation to retake the Iraqi city from jihadists, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Wednesday.

"It would've been possible to end the battle quickly if protecting civilians wasn't one of the foundations of our plan," Abadi told commanders outside Fallujah in comments broadcast by state television.

Elite forces from the counter-terrorism service backed by police, army and paramilitary groups on Monday launched a new phase of the operation to retake Fallujah.

But they have so far failed to breach the centre of Fallujah, with commanders arguing that the Islamic State group was offering fierce resistance.

Abadi's comments suggest however that the pace of the operation was intentionally slowed in order to spare civilians whom the UN says are being used as human shields by ISIS.

There are an estimated 50 000 civilians trapped inside the city, which lies only 50km west of Baghdad and is one of only two major urban hubs controlled by ISIS in Iraq.

Humanitarian organisations, the Iraqi government itself and the country's most respected Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have all appealed for the plight of civilians to be given the utmost consideration.

Read more on:    isis  |  iraq

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