Iraqi forces penetrating Fallujah from “multiple axes” — Pentagon

WASHINGTON, June 8 (KUNA) — Iraqi forces “continue to clear” Fallujah from the clutches of the so-called Islamic State on “multiple axes” with the army, police and tribal fighters pushing in from the south, northwest, and the west, a Pentagon official said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s counterterrorism service is on the southern edge, while police and popular mobilization forces have cleared some suburban neighborhoods around the city, located about 64.5 kms west of the capital Baghdad, US-led coalition spokesman Col. Christopher Garver told a briefing.
IS fighters have assumed “complex defensive positions with extensive tunnels, obstacles and improvised explosive devices used as mine fields,” he said.
The coalition is assessing whether IS fighters intend to fight it out “to the last man or if they will abandon their defenses” as Iraqi forces reach deeper into the city,” he added.
Iraqi forces fighting in Fallujah have been supported by coalition airstrikes – including 31 last week and seven in the last 48 hours – and “hundreds of hours” of intelligence sharing and reconnaissance support, he mentioned.
However, there remains “great concern” about the state of civilians in Fallujah as Iraqi forces push through the strategic city in their fight against the so-called Islamic State.
For now, the Iraqi government, supported by international humanitarian organizations, is in control of the situation as citizens flee from the fighting.
“The government of Iraq is working to increase the amount of shelters available for civilians as they anticipate their escape from the city as the ISF clears farther in.” Garver said this is “going to be a tough problem,” underlining the coalition’s resolve that the “best way to help the people of Fallujah is to quickly and decisively defeat Daesh (IS) and remove its influence from the city.” He said that, two nights ago, the coalition struck Abatim, an IS oil and natural black market target, located approximately nine kms to the west of Mosul.
The strikes targeted a “group of more than 100 trucks,” used to transfer stolen oil for distribution on the black market, with no reported civilian casualties, he said.
IS can no longer launch large-scale attacks to retake territory and is shifting tactics to conduct more suicide than military attacks, he suggested, adding however that “this does not mean the enemy is defeated yet. (end) sd.rk