Coalition forces kill IS leader in Fallujah – Spokesman

WASHINGTON, May 27 (KUNA) – The US-led coalition forces killed more than 70 enemy fighters, including the commander of the so-called Islamic State (IS) forces in Fallujah, US Army Colonel Steve Warren, Spokesman for the Combined Joint Task Force, said on Friday. He added that the coalition has been supporting the Fallujah effort with airstrikes, and from Taqaddum with some artillery or fire. Over the last four days, the 20 strikes, totaling 57 engagements, have destroyed IS fighting positions and gun emplacements, he said.
For perspective, across the entire battlefield in the same time frame, the coalition conducted 102 airstrikes that killed 231 total enemy fighters, he said.
“It is still early in the Fallujah fight, so it is unclear how long this battle will last,” Warren said.
He stated that the operation to liberate Fallujah from the so-called Islamic State (IS), Karmah, a town 10 miles northeast of the city, is now “clear”. Iraqi Security Forces are moving along multiple axes, but have not yet entered Fallujah, Warren said during a Pentagon teleconference briefing from Iraq.
“We estimate there to be up to 50,000 citizens remaining in Fallujah, and the Iraqi government has been clear that protecting these civilians is their priority,” Warren said.
US military aircraft have dropped leaflets to inform the population to avoid IS areas, he said.
The leaflets directed those who cannot leave to put white sheets on their roofs to mark their locations, he said.
“The Iraqi army is working hard to establish evacuation routes, and the local Anbar government has set up camps for displaced civilians,” Warren said.
As was the case in Ramadi, Hit and Rutbah, the Fallujah operation is a combined one made up of thousands of forces from the Iraqi army, the federal police, Sunni tribal fighters and the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, he noted.
“Popular mobilization forces are also participating in this operation, and they have said publicly that they will remain outside the city,” Warren said.
In Ramadi, the enemy chose to stand and fight, he noted. More recently in Hit and in Rutbah, IS “hid behind women and children before throwing down their weapons and running away,” he said. “In both cases, they lost, but one was quicker than the other.” “Of note, we saw local newspaper reports that some of the fighters who fled Rutbah were arrested by their leadership and then executed by being placed in bakery ovens and cooked to death,” Warren said.
Elsewhere in Anbar, Iraqi forces pushed 65 kilometers west of Rutbah and successfully reclaimed an outpost as well as a former US military base, he said.
In the Tigris River valley, units from the 15th Iraqi Army Division continue clearance and security operations in Kabruk, Warren said.
“Today’s focus may be on Fallujah, but Mosul remains in our cross-hairs,” he said. “Over the last three days, we conducted 12 strikes totaling 32 engagements that destroyed multiple enemy headquarters, several VBIEDs (vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices), multiple tactical units, a media center and a tunnel system.” In Syria this week, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced they have begun regular operations to liberate the countryside north of Raqqah, Warren said.
“We have always been focused on kicking Daesh out of Raqqah, and we will continue to support the SDF, particularly the Syrian-Arab component, as they conduct ground operations to further isolate the city,” he said.
There are more than 200 American advisers in Syria working with the Syrian-Arab coalition as they continue to pressure IS across a broad front stretching from the Tishrin Dam to Shaddadi, he said. (end) rm.ibi

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