iraqi_tanks_during_the_parade.jpg
Photograph: Tommy Avilucea

Iraqi troops, backed by US-led airstrikes, have begun a major attack to drive the Islamic State terrorist militia from its stronghold in the western city of Fallujah, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Monday.

“The clock of liberating Fallujah has struck,” al-Abadi added in a televised address.

“The moment of decisive victory has come near and Daesh has no option but to flee,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Al-Abadi vowed that the Iraqi flag will soon be raised in Fallujah, a key city of the western province of Anbar.

“Today, we will tear apart the black banners of the strangers, who have kidnapped Fallujah,” he said.

Islamic State has been in control of Fallujah since early 2014.

The city, around 50 kilometres west of the capital Baghdad, was the first Iraqi city to fall to the al-Qaeda splinter group, before Islamic State seized more territory in the country in a lightning attack months later.

As part of the ongoing onslaught, warplanes bombarded “selected targets” inside Fallujah as a prelude to a ground attack to recapture the city, the Federal Security Command said without providing details.

On Sunday, the Iraqi military called on residents of Fallujah to leave the city through “secure roads.” Residents, who could not leave, were advised to raise white banners over their houses.

The offensive comes days after Iraqi forces retook the far western town of Rutba from the militants.

Islamic State still controls Iraq’s northern city of Mosul.

The US military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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