By Ibrahim Salih
BAGHDAD (AA) – A Shia leader has called on the Iraqi government not open up any new fronts in the battle against Daesh until all members of the terrorist group are expunged from the western city of Fallujah.
"I hope that [Prime Minister] and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Haidar al-Abadi will give priority to the fight to liberate Fallujah [from Daesh] and refrain from opening any new fronts," Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Shia Badr Organization, told Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.
The call came shortly after the Iraqi government sent fresh troop reinforcements to the town of Makhmour in Iraq’s western Nineveh province in advance of a fresh offensive against Daesh.
Last month, the Iraqi army, backed by U.S.-led coalition air power, began a major military offensive aimed at retaking Fallujah, which was captured by Daesh in 2014.
Though Iraqi forces and allied militias have managed to capture several villages on Fallujah’s outskirts, they have until now failed to advance into the city’s center.
The Iraqi government justifies its slow advance into Fallujah by saying it fears for the safety of thousands of civilians trapped inside the city.
"The Hashd al-Shaabi militia will take responsibility for storming the city if the army fails to do so," al-Amiri said.
An umbrella of Shia militia groups, the Hashd al-Shaabi has been accused in the past of committing human rights abuses while retaking Sunni areas.
Some Sunni politicians have raised concerns that the presence of Shia militias in Fallujah could serve to stoke sectarian violence.
Lieutenant-General Abdulwahab al-Saedi, a commander of the ongoing Fallujah offensive, said Iraqi forces were facing fierce resistance from Daesh militants.
"Iraqi forces on Wednesday advanced towards Daesh positions in southern Fallujah," he told Anadolu Agency.
Iraq has suffered a devastating security vacuum since mid-2014, when Daesh overran northern and western parts of the country.