ISIS Turns Back Iraqi Forces From Fallujah With Human Shields

REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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Iraqi forces assaulting the city of Fallujah have been ordered to halt due to the government’s concerns over the Islamic State’s use of human shields.

Fallujah is home to around 50,000 civilians, many of whom ISIS is using as human shields, according to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees. The tactic has resulted in civilians making up as much as 60 percent of the deaths in the assault thus far, making it difficult for the ISF and coalition air support to root out the ISIS fighters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said concern for civilian casualties led to the order to halt, although he could be downplaying the role stiff resistance from ISIS fighters played in the decision.

“It would have been possible to end the battle quickly if protecting civilians wasn’t among our priorities,” said al-Abadi to ISF commanders near the front. “Thank God, our units are at the outskirts of Falluja and victory is within reach.”

Despite al-Abadi’s claims, it has been reported that ISF forces have seen stiff resistance from ISIS since they entered the city yesterday. Fallujah was the first major population center to fall to ISIS in Iraq when the terror group began its rise in 2014. ISIS’ roots in the city precede 2014, with the city formerly being a key staging area for the terror group’s predecessor, al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI).

Operations against Fallujah began over a week ago, but the assault on the city itself has only just begun. ISF have employed a three-pronged strategy to take the city, having made the most substantial gains in the city’s southern suburbs.

Fallujah itself is ISIS’ closest bastion to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and may have been the city from which a series of suicide bombings against Baghdad originated last month. Over 140 people were killed in one week as a result of the attacks.

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