The Iraqi military on Sunday said it is planning to storm Islamic State-held Fallujah, the city that was the scene of the bloodiest fighting for U.S. Marines during the Iraq War.
In a late-night televised address, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the operation to retake the city in the western province of Anbar had begun.
A statement from the military said counterterrorism forces, police, tribal fighters and popular mobilization units — which include an array of Shiite militias — will be involved. U.S.-supplied F-16 jets already had begun bombing targets in the city, the statement said. Civilians were urged to stay away from Islamic State headquarters.
Few expect an easy fight. Islamic State militants have dug in and built defenses in the city since capturing it more than two years ago, the first in the country to fall to the extremist group. Fallujah has long been considered a hotbed of rebellion and extremism, with even the heavy-handed Saddam Hussein struggling to control its tribes. U.S. Marines fought Sunni insurgents during two battles for the city in 2004, the second of which marked the heaviest urban combat for U.S. troops since the Vietnam War, killing nearly 100 service members.