Iraqi forces enter center of Fallujah, retake govt compound from IS – state TV

Iraqi army soldiers walk with their weapons in center of Falluja, Iraq, June 17, 2016. © Thaier Al-Sudani
The government headquarters in central Fallujah has been recaptured from Islamic State by Iraqi forces, state television reports. The Iraqi flag has reportedly been raised over the mayor's compound.

“The counter-terrorism service and the rapid response forces have retaken the government compound in the center of Fallujah,” AFP cited Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, the operation's overall commander, as saying.

“The liberation of the government compound, which is the main landmark in the city, symbolizes the restoration of the state's authority,” said Iraq's federal police chief, Raed Shaker Jawdat.

The offensive to push the IS terrorists out of the city was launched four weeks ago.

Iraqi troops entered downtown Fallujah at about 6 a.m. local time (0300 GMT) following an intense firefight with Islamic State militants and air support provided by both the US-led anti-ISIS coalition and the Iraqi Air Force, Special Forces Commander Haidar al-Obeidi told The Associated Press.

Iraqi forces are now fighting for the central hospital which is located nearby.

A significant part of the city remains under the control of Islamic extremists.

The government complex in Fallujah includes a number of buildings, among them municipality offices, a police station and other buildings, mostly torched by the terrorists.

The location has been rigged with explosive devises and Iraqi engineers are now clearing the area of explosive devices.

The government troops are pursuing retreating extremists in the buildings immediately adjacent to the city’s downtown, and are currently besieging IS fighters in the nearby central hospital, al-Obeidi said.

The police force is advancing along Baghdad Street, Fallujah‘s principal east-west road running through the city.

The terrorists have been using Fallujah as the major location to produce handmade explosive devices and car bombs.

Once Fallujah is fully free of Islamic State fighters, the Iraqi government aims to concentrate on launching an offensive against terrorist-controlled Mosul, the country’s second-largest city.