Falluja Operation Begins; 219 Killed in Iraq

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On the heels of a victory in Rutba, Prime Minister Haider
al-Abadi
announced
the launch of Operation Breaking Terrorism (كسر
الإرهاب‎) to recover Falluja.
The Islamic State militants easily infiltrated Falluja in January 2014 during a
period of heavy protests over the treatment of Sunnis by the government in
Baghdad. It was the first city to fall to Daesh.

Earlier on Sunday, the military warned residents to flee,
but the militants are forcing
many of them to stay as human shields. Those who must shelter in place have
been asked to raise
a white flag above their homes. Heavy artillery fire has already been reported.

The battle is expected to be long and difficult; the
aftermath could be worse. Shi’ite militiamen will participate,
but if they then linger in the predominantly Sunni city, it could mean
continued sectarian bloodshed afterwards. The militiamen have been accused of
abuses and war crimes in other Sunni cities they have occupied and are
unwelcome in Falluja. Authorities say
the militiamen will only be used outside the city.

The military has been tightening its noose around the city
for months but decided to attack Ramadi and Rutba first, leaving many Falluja
families without
adequate food, medicine, and other supplies
for many weeks. The recent
uptick in attacks and protests in Baghdad may have forced
the government’s hand. It is likely that they attackers are coming in from
Falluja, and another victory might make for a good distraction.

In other news, the Abadi also claimed
that no live fire was used against demonstrators in Baghdad on Friday,
even though two of the protesters died
of gunshot wounds. Despite the response, protests are expected to continue
unless the government begins tackling the problem of widespread corruption.

At least 219 people were killed and 31 were wounded,
including those harmed in the Baghdad protests:

Two
Shi’ite militiamen were killed and 11 were wounded
when a truck exploded at
their checkpoint. The driver
was shot
dead while trying to escape.

A bomb killed
one militiaman and wounded five more
in Yusufiya.

In Saidiya, gunmen killed
a mukhtar
.

Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) members shot and injured a
recreational paraglider
who had jumped from Peshkesh Mountain.

Security forces killed
150 militants
in the Bustan border area with Jordan.

Airstrikes killed 15 militants,
including a leader, in Qayara.

In Tal Afar, strikes left 14
militants dead
.

In Khazar, strikes left
10 militants dead and eight wounded
.

Seven
militants were killed
in a strike on Albu Ali al-Jassim.

Security forces in Haditha killed
five militants
.

Five
militants were killed
in a clash in Rutba.

Strikes killed
four militants and wounded six more
in Zab.

An airstrike on Subaihat left two
militants dead
.

Two
suicide bombers were killed
in Haqlaniya.

In Mosul, militants executed several of
their wayward leaders by allowing dogs to…

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