Iraqi general: ‘The battle for Falluja is over’

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A senior Iraqi general has announced on state TV that the battle for Falluja is over as Iraqi troops retook the final ISIS holdout in the city.

Lt. General Abdul Wahab al- Saadi, the commander of the liberation of Falluja operations, announced the city was liberated Sunday after recapturing the neighborhood of al-Jolan from ISIS.

Standing in the al-Jolan neighborhood, he said this was the last area of Falluja that ISIS had control of.

Over 1,800 ISIS militants were killed during the military operations by the Iraqi forces to recapture the city and villages surrounding it, al-Saadi told al-Iraqiya TV.

“We announce from the central al-Jolan neighborhood that this neighborhood has been cleaned by the counterterrorism and federal police forces,” he said. “From here we announce to Iraqi people that the battle of Falluja is over.”

CNN cannot independently verify all fighting in every area of Falluja has ended.

Civilians suffering

Refugees who had escaped ISIS find themselves languishing in hastily-constructed refugee camps where even the basic amenities are lacking.

“All I want is a tent,” one man told CNN. “I asked God, I asked the government: give me a tent to protect my family.”

Open cesspits and a solitary toilet for over 3,000 people are visible testaments to the wretched conditions these people are enduring. Relief workers and aid groups are doing what they can, but demand far exceeds supply, says Karl Schembri from the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“We escaped from the tyranny of ISIS,” one woman said. “Now we need the Iraqi government to stand with us.”

On the back foot?

ISIS appears to be on the defensive across the Middle East — from its self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria to Falluja, a strategically important city just 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the capital, Baghdad.

In a symbolic victory, troops from the Iraqi Federal Police raised the national flag over the Falluja mayor’s office Friday. The move came nearly four weeks after the start of a U.S.-backed offensive to liberate the city, the last major ISIS foothold in Iraq’s Anbar province.

It’s been a fierce campaign, with fighting taking place street by street. And bombs remain, even if most ISIS fighters have been driven from the city.

Many houses are booby-trapped, forcing Iraqi forces to move slowly and methodically to clear improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“They don’t leave any house without first rigging it with explosives,” one counterterrorism member told CNN.