12:00 AM, December 31, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:56 PM, December 30, 2015

WAR ON IS

Iraqi army heads towards Fallujah

700 militants hiding in Ramadi: US-led coalition

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Agencies

The Iraqi army, emboldened by the recent recapturing of the city of Ramadi from the Islamic State, is now eyeing another IS stronghold: Fallujah.

The defence ministry said yesterday that Iraqi security forces, supported by US-led air strikes, had started advancing towards Fallujah from different sides. It added that Iraqi forces were trying to cleanse areas adjacent to the Euphrates River and around Fallujah in order to cut IS supply line to the city.

But military experts told Al Jazeera that the presence of large numbers of improvised explosive devices and mines planted by IS at the entrances of the city, in addition to the violent resistance the group is putting up, will not make taking over Fallujah an easy mission.

Moreover, the Iraqi forces will need to consolidate power over the areas they have already taken over, experts said.

The US-led coalition yesterday said about 700 IS militants are suspected to be hiding in the centre and eastern outskirts of Ramadi days after Iraqi forces claimed victory over the militants in the western city, reports Reuters.

Much of the centre of the Anbar provincial capital still needs to be cleared of explosives laid by the militants who seized the city in May, delaying the return of tens of thousands of civilians who fled to Baghdad and other parts of the country, the coalition said.

The Pentagon said Tuesday that an IS leader with "direct" ties to the alleged mastermind of the Paris attacks was among 10 of the group's higher-ups killed in Syria and Iraq this month.

The US military says such strikes are helping to weaken the jihadist group, which captured large parts of Iraq and Syria last year but has recently seen significant setbacks including this week's loss of Ramadi in Iraq, reports AFP.

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