iraqi_tanks_during_the_parade.jpg
Photograph: Tommy Avilucea

Iraqi troops on Friday advanced against Islamic State in the centre of Fallujah, the stronghold of the extremist militia, and retook control of key facilities in the western city, the military said.

The forces, backed by US-led airstrikes, recaptured the city’s government compound and raised the Iraqi flag on it, Colonel Jamal Mohammad, an army commander, said.

The compound houses police, the city hall, a traffic department and intelligence service offices.  

“The Iraqi forces also managed to recapture the Fallujah hospital after killing more than 42 elements from Daesh,” Mohammed told dpa, referring to Islamic State.

No figures about casualties among the Iraqi forces were given.

Later on Friday, Iraqi Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban reached the government compound in Fallujah, preparing to announce the "liberation" of the city, Lieutenant-Colonel Ahmed Khaled, an officer linked to the military operation in Fallujah, said.

“Now that the compound and the hospital have been regained, around 70 per cent of Fallujah has been liberated,” Khaled said.

“Retaking control of the remaining areas in the west and north is not difficult in view of the clear collapse in the ranks of the radical organization,” he added.

On May 23, Iraqi government forces, backed by a powerful Shiite militia and US-led air power, started an onslaught to dislodge Islamic State from Fallujah, a main city of the mostly Sunni province.

Fallujah, around 50 kilometres west of the capital Baghdad, was the first Iraqi city to fall to Islamic State in early 2014. The radical Sunni group seized more territory in the country in a lightning attack months later.

Islamic State militants still control areas in Iraq's Sunni Arab north and west, including Mosul, the country's second-largest city.

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