Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces deployed on the edge of Fallujah Saturday for the first time since an operation was launched to retake the city, top commanders said.
The counter-terrorism service (CTS), Iraq’s best-trained and most battle-tested fighting unit, moved into position on the boundaries of Fallujah, a bastion of the Daesh group.
“CTS forces, Anbar emergency police and tribal fighters... reached Tareq and Mazraa camps” south and east of Fallujah, Abdelwahab Al-Saadi, the top commander in charge of the Fallujah operation, told AFP.
“These forces will break into Fallujah in the next few hours to liberate it from Daesh,” he said.
Fallujah, which lies just 50 km west of Baghdad, is one of the two remaining major Iraqi cities still controlled by Daesh.
CTS spokesman Sabah Al-Noman confirmed the deployment but would not comment on the timing of an assault.
“CTS forces moved to Fallujah to take part in clearing the city from within. The operation is shifting to urban warfare after Iraqi forces completed the siege of the city,” he said. “CTS forces will break into the city, that’s what they specialize in,” Noman said.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces, including the Hashed Al-Shaabi umbrella group dominated by Tehran-backed Shiite militias, began a huge operation on May 22-23.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi forces (“Population Mobilization” in Arabic), as well as army and police forces have so far focused their efforts on areas east of Fallujah, without entering the city proper.
The CTS led the assault on several other major towns, cities and strategic sites across the country that were retaken from the terrorists over the past two years.