By Ahmed Rasheed and Stephen Kalin BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi forces may face a big battle near Baghdad before they can try to retake the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul: Falluja, a long-time bastion of Sunni Muslim jihadists at the capital's western gates. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's government and the U.S.-led coalition backing it have been cagey so far in plans for Falluja, which lies between Baghdad and Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province that the Iraqi military recaptured this week from the militants. Falluja was the first Iraqi city to fall to Islamic State in January 2014, six months before the group that emerged from al Qaeda swept through large parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.Abadi said on Monday the army would head next to Mosul, the biggest urban center under Islamic State control. He said its capture would mark the end of the "caliphate" proclaimed from the northern city's main mosque in June 2014. But with many western and northern areas still held by Islamic State, the authorities have not made clear what path they intend to take to Mosul, 400 km (250 miles) north of Baghdad."The government will need to control Falluja before Mosul," Jabbar al-Yawar, secretary-general of the peshmerga - the forces of the Kurdish regional government fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq - told al-Hadath TV. Ahmed al-Assadi, a spokesman for the Hashid Shaabi - a coalition of mostly Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias set up to fight Islamic State - said Falluja would likely come before Mosul. "But the final decision is with the commander-in-chief," he added, referring to Abadi, to whom the Hashid formally report. Daily military statements mention air strikes and attacks by the Iraqi army and the international coalition in and around Falluja, a city with a pre-war population of around 300,000 located 70 km (45 miles) west of the capital. But there has been no indication of if and when a battle will be launched to take the city, which Baghdad-based analyst Hisham al-Hashimi said contains around 1,000 Islamic State fighters."There's a military leadership; there's planning and a military vision," Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the joint operations command told Reuters on Thursday. "If a battle starts to liberate the center of Falluja, Falluja itself or any other area, we will announce it officially." About 3,000 families remaining in Falluja could be used as human shields, said Hashimi, who has worked with the Iraqi government. Around 70,000 families have taken refuge around Baghdad, according to Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights. TURBULENT PAST Falluja, downstream from Ramadi in the Euphrates River valley, is encircled by Iraqi forces, according to the international coalition, though some militants manage to slip past the cordon. Assadi said the Hashid were present south of Falluja, on the road leading to the Shi'ite shrine city of Kerbala, as well as in some eastern and western areas. There they had helped to isolate the city and hold areas, freeing up the military to advance. Maria Fantappie, Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group, said that despite Falluja's proximity to Baghdad, it was not necessarily the next target. Ramadi's strong tribal networks had made it easier for Iraqi forces to forge alliances and take control of key areas. "Falluja has more of an urban structure where tribes are present but are less a structuring element of the city, so it's going to be much harder to retake and keep the city under control," she said from Istanbul. Known as the "City of Minarets and Mother of Mosques", Falluja is a focus for Sunni faith and identity in Iraq. It was badly damaged in two offensives by U.S. forces against al Qaeda insurgents in 2004. The tribes of Anbar helped turn the tide of that insurgency at its height in 2006, banding together and making common cause with U.S. troops to rout al Qaeda. The group's resurgence as Islamic State has divided residents of Anbar, where many accuse former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of shutting Sunnis out of power and being a pawn of Shi'ite power Iran. Some support the Islamist militants, or are too fearful to move against them. Fantappie said any attempt to retake Falluja could face local resistance because of a deal struck more than two years ago between the jihadis and the city's tribal and urban elements. Yet local government officials said the capture of Ramadi, the largest Sunni city regained from Islamic State, had weakened the militants' morale. It had also created tension with Falluja residents as well as provoking clashes with Sunni tribes. Those reports could not be independently confirmed."After some Daesh fighters fled Ramadi to Falluja ... fears mounted among Falluja residents that a government offensive on their city could be imminent and pushed many families to try to leave the city," said Ibrahim al-Fahdawi, a member of the city council, using a derogatory Arabic acronym for the militants. "Daesh elements threatened to execute anyone trying to flee, which triggered a squabble that developed into clashes between residents and Daesh, who were mostly foreigners," he told Reuters by phone. (Additional reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Giles Elgood and David Stamp)
Here's what the US can learn from Switzerland, which has nearly eliminated mass shootings while maintaining a high rate of gun ownership.
- The Daily Beast
Texas DPS/InstagramUVALDE, Texas—The 18-year-old gunman who opened fire at a Texas elementary school, killing at least 19 kids and two adults, wrote three disturbing messages on Facebook just minutes before the massacre, warning of the carnage to come.“I’m going to shoot my grandmother,” Salvador Ramos wrote about 30 minutes before his rampage at Robb Elementary School, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday.Ramos made good on his vow, writing minutes later that he’d “shot my grandmother.” His la
- In The Know by Yahoo
Disney guest claims she couldn't enter Epcot with 'revealing' shirt: 'I had to either leave and change or buy merch'
A Walt Disney World guest claims she pushed the limits of the park's dress code and learned that a popular TikTok "hack" for a free shirt might no longer be an option.
Jason Momoa shared an Instagram photo of him getting an MRI, which prompted fan concern. The star recently underwent hernia surgery but is reportedly ‘OK.’
- Harper's Bazaar
In BAZAAR's latest #DayInTheLife episode, the actress prepares for the stage and talks realizing her childhood theater dreams.
Elon Musk is the most influential CEO in the world. The mogul with 95 million followers on Twitter is determined to use his platform to weigh in on public debates, whatever they may be. In recent months, the CEO of the electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has thus imposed his voice on subjects such as the Russian war in Ukraine, free speech with the eventful acquisition-in-progress of the social network Twitter for $44 billion, cancel culture and its corollary wokeism.
- NBC News
The man who opened fire in a Texas elementary school Tuesday, massacring 19 children and two adults, was a loner who kept to himself and avoided any kind of
- USA TODAY
Texas school shooter lived in Uvalde: What we know about gunman, motive and how weapons were obtained
The massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is one of the deadliest shootings at a U.S. grade school. Here's what we know about gunman.
- USA TODAY Sports
Joey Votto on tense exchange with Cubs pitcher Rowan Wick: 'I wasn't in the mood to keep my mouth shut'
Joey Votto got into a heated exchange with reliever Rowan Wick and the Cubs' dugout in the eighth inning of the Reds' 4-3 victory.
The Fox News host also said that trying to get rid of the country's guns would start a civil war.
People Are Praising This Woman For Her Simple Solution To Getting Rid Of Camel Toe When Wearing Biker Shorts Or Leggings
"Saw this at 5 a.m., tried it at 8 a.m. — confirming at 11 a.m. that IT WORKS. YOU ARE AN ANGEL!"View Entire Post ›
- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“It was a great hangout area for parties, and if given the choice to do it again—I would!” said a good-humored Kim Whiteside, who owns the home at 6145 Whitman Ave.
According to the Republican senator, it's the number of doors, not guns, that schools should be worried about.
While it's no surprise that Princess Charlotte is a fan of horse riding, it turns out Prince William and Kate Middleton's daughter also has another talent...
Queen Elizabeth previously announced that she would not be attending any garden parties, which celebrate guests' public service, this year
On March 13, 1996, an ostracized former Boy Scout leader around whom rumors of pedophilia had swirled for years, walked into the gym of Dunblane Primary School and fired at children aged five and six gathered at a gym class. At least 17 others were injured before the attack ended with Thomas Hamilton shooting himself. The Scottish town—and all of Britain—were plunged into mourning.
"A lot of people don’t know that I’m mixed race, or if they do, they’ve got no idea of my ethnicity."View Entire Post ›
- Footwear News
Kourtney Kardashian Chooses a Swimsuit-Mini Dress Hybrid With Travis Barker for Yachting After Wedding Party
Kourtney Kardashian takes a swim with her husband Travis Barker.
- Ukrayinska Pravda
Aggressors moved an echelon of T-62 tanks moved out of storage to Melitopol Oblast Military Administration
Olha Hlushchenko - Thursday, 26 May 2022, 01:26 In Zaporizhzhia region, the Russian invaders moved an echelon of obsolete T-62 tanks to Melitopol, as well as 30 units of military equipment to the village of Kyrylivka.
- Men's Health
Top Gun: Maverick has now flown into cinemas and as impressive as its flying scenes are, it's the treatment of Val Kilmer's Iceman that leaves a lasting memory.