Iraqi army push into Falluja as fresh bombings hit Baghdad
Added Date: 5/30/2016 2:18:12 PM
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The Iraqi army stormed to the southern edge of Falluja under U.S. air support on Monday, launching a direct assault to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) militants.

As government forces pressed their onslaught, explosions hit the capital, Baghdad, killing dozens. Reports say that more than 20 people killed and over 50 injured in three districts of Baghdad, police and medical sources said.

Bolstered by Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia, the Iraqi army launched its operation to recover Falluja on May 23, first by tightening a six-month-old siege around the city 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad.

On Monday, army units advanced to the southern entrance to Falluja, "steadily advancing" under air cover from the U.S.-led coalition, according to a military statement read out on state TV. A Reuters TV crew on the scene said explosions and gunfire were ripping through Falluja's southern Naimiya district.

A Shi'ite militia coalition known as Popular Mobilization, or Hashid Shaabi, were seeking to consolidate the siege by dislodging militants from Saqlawiya, a village just to the north of Falluja.

The militias have pledged not to take part in the assault on the mainly Sunni Muslim city itself to avoid aggravating sectarian strife.

Falluja is a bastion of the Sunni resistance that fought the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the Shi'ite-led Baghdad government that took over after the fall of Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, in 2003.

The offensive is causing alarm among international aid organization over the humanitarian situation in the city, where more than 50,000 civilians remain trapped with limited access to water, food and health care.

Elsewhere, Kurdish Peshmerga forces on Sunday launched an attack to oust Islamist militants from a handful of villages about 20 km (13 miles) east of Mosul so as to increase the pressure on Islamic State and pave the way for storming the city.

Monday's bombings targeted two densely populated Shi'ite districts, Shaab and Sadr City, and one predominantly Sunni suburb, Tarmiya, north of Baghdad.

A car bomb in Shaab killed 12 people and injured more than 20, while in Tarmiya seven were killed and about 20 injured when a car exploded outside a government building guarded by police. In Sadr City.


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