On the heels of a victory in Rutba, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of Operation Breaking Terrorism (كسر الإرهاب) to recover Falluja. The Islamic State militants easily infiltrated Falluja in January 2014 during a period of heavy protests over the treatment of Sunnis by the government in Baghdad. It was the first city to fall to Daesh.
Earlier on Sunday, the military warned residents to flee, but the militants are forcing many of them to stay as human shields. Those who must shelter in place have been asked to raise a white flag above their homes. Heavy artillery fire has already been reported.
The battle is expected to be long and difficult; the aftermath could be worse. Shi’ite militiamen will participate, but if they then linger in the predominantly Sunni city, it could mean continued sectarian bloodshed afterwards. The militiamen have been accused of abuses and war crimes in other Sunni cities they have occupied and are unwelcome in Falluja. Authorities say the militiamen will only be used outside the city.
The military has been tightening its noose around the city for months but decided to attack Ramadi and Rutba first, leaving many Falluja families without adequate food, medicine, and other supplies for many weeks. The recent uptick in attacks and protests in Baghdad may have forced the government’s hand. It is likely that they attackers are coming in from Falluja, and another victory might make for a good distraction.
In other news, the Abadi also claimed that no live fire was used against demonstrators in Baghdad on Friday, even though two of the protesters died of gunshot wounds. Despite the response, protests are expected to continue unless the government begins tackling the problem of widespread corruption.
At least 219 people were killed and 31 were wounded:
Two Shi’ite militiamen were killed and 11 were wounded when a truck exploded at their checkpoint. The driver was shot dead while trying to escape.
A bomb killed one militiaman and wounded five more in Yusufiya.
In Saidiya, gunmen killed a mukhtar.
Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) members shot and injured a recreational paraglider who had jumped from Peshkesh Mountain.
Security forces killed 150 militants in the Bustan border area with Jordan.
Airstrikes killed 15 militants, including a leader, in Qayara.
In Tal Afar, strikes left 14 militants dead.
In Khazar, strikes left 10 militants dead and eight wounded.
Seven militants were killed in a strike on Albu Ali al-Jassim.
Security forces in Haditha killed five militants.
Five militants were killed in a clash in Rutba.
Strikes killed four militants and wounded six more in Zab.
An airstrike on Subaihat left two militants dead.
Two suicide bombers were killed in Haqlaniya.
In Mosul, militants executed several of their wayward leaders by allowing dogs to maul them to death.