By Haydar Hadi
BAGHDAD (AA) – In exclusive comments to Anadolu Agency on Wednesday, Suhaib al-Rawi, governor of Iraq’s Anbar province, said "it would not be easy" to retake the city of Fallujah (Anbar’s largest city), which was captured by the Daesh terrorist group in early 2014.
"The ongoing army campaign to retake Fallujah isn’t an easy one," he said. "Daesh has built formidable defenses in the city, in which over 1,000 Daesh militants still remain."
The operation, al-Rawi said, had been delayed several times due to fears of steep civilian casualties.
"However, the operation is proceeding according to plan, even it is going slowly," the governor said.
Al-Rawi went on to note that, in some instances, the Hashd al-Shaabi -- an umbrella group of Shia militias taking part in the campaign alongside the army -- had violated the rights of Fallujah’s civilian residents.
"We’ve heard reports of violations being perpetrated against the civilian population, with at least 94 people killed and another 643 unaccounted for," he said.
He went on to say that a committee drawn up on the orders of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had recently completed a report on the issue, which would soon be submitted to judicial officials for review.
The Iraqi army operation to retake Fallujah from Daesh first began on May 23.
Located along the Euphrates River about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of capital Baghdad, Fallujah -- which fell to Daesh in 2014 -- is believed to be home to some 90,000 residents.