By Suleiman al-Qubeisi and Ibrahim Saleh
ANBAR, Iraq (AA) – Nine civilians were killed and at least 23 others injured on Monday when the Iraqi army and the pro-government Al-Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militia shelled positions in the city of Fallujah in Iraq’s western Anbar province, according to a local tribal chief.
"Army forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi shelled Fallujah from morning till evening with more than 30 mortar rounds, which struck the northern part of the city and a market," local tribal chief Sheikh Majid al-Jerisi told Anadolu Agency by phone.
According to al-Jerisi, most of the casualties were women and children.
The head doctor at Fallujah General Hospital, who declined to give his name due to security concerns, told Anadolu Agency that five children and two women had been killed while another nine children and seven other women had been injured.
Earlier Monday, Iraqi forces reportedly captured 12 districts of Fallujah only hours into a fresh military campaign aimed at retaking the city from the Daesh terrorist group, according to a local security source.
Fallujah is considered Daesh’s primary stronghold in the Anbar province.
Federal police officer Raed Jawdat said in a statement issued mid-Monday that joint forces -- including army troops, counter-terrorism units, pro-government militiamen and tribal fighters -- had managed to capture Fallujah’s Subaihat, Al-Shihabi, Al-Lifiyya, Al-Karma, Al-Boaudh, Jamilah, Al-Bouhadid, Al-Nasser and Al-Sajr districts, among others.
Jawdat added that some 40 Daesh militants had been killed in ongoing operations to retake Fallujah, in which medium and heavy weapons were being employed.
On Sunday night, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced the launch of the military campaign.
"The operation to liberate Fallujah has been launched with the participation of Iraqi army forces, counter-terrorism units, the federal police, the Hashd al-Shaabi militia and tribal fighters," al-Abadi said.
Located along the Euphrates River about 50 kilometers west of capital Baghdad, Fallujah -- which fell to Daesh in early 2014 -- is currently home to an estimated 90,000 people.