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Iraq Says Forces Recaptured Towns Outside Fallujah From Islamic State

Iraqi Forces Start Offensive To Retake Fallujah
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WATCH: Iraqi Forces Start Offensive To Retake Fallujah

Iraqi security forces captured several areas on the outskirts of Fallujah on the first day of an offensive aimed at wresting the strategic city from Islamic State militants, Iraqi military officials said on May 23.

Security forces moved into the Garma, Shihabi, and Al-Sejar areas west of the city in the early morning, hours after Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced the offensive, officials said.

Abadi, dressed in military garb, said that operations were proceeding "successfully," but "there is a big challenge and that is preserving the lives of civilians."

He said safe corridors had been established for civilians fleeing the city.

The United Nations had warned that about 50,000 civilians remaining in Fallujah are in "great danger" because of the fighting and should be given a safe corridor to escape.

Fallujah is one of two main cities in the mainly Sunni Anbar Province, and was the scene of some of the bloodiest urban combat with U.S. troops in 2004.

The assault on Fallujah is the first major offensive in an urban area since Iraqi forces cleared Ramadi of IS fighters earlier this year.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and AFP

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