*UPDATES WITH MORE QUOTES FROM PM
By Haydar Hadi
BAGHDAD (AA) - Iraqi army has made progress in its ongoing operation to retake Daesh-held Fallujah city, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Wednesday.
In a statement released by his office, al-Abadi said: "Our forces have made progress and success in Fallujah."
He said the safety of civilians and purging the city of terrorists was important. "After Fallujah, we will regain Mosul from the group," he said.
Earlier, Iraq’s Academy for Sunni Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) Wednesday announced its rejection of what it described as the "policy of collective punishment" being carried out against the people of Fallujah during ongoing military operations to retake the city from the Daesh terrorist group.
"Innocents cannot be punished for the crimes of Daesh," the Baghdad-based academy said in a statement, calling on the Iraqi government to provide civilian residents of Fallujah with safe passage out of the city.
Al-Abadi also noted that the Hashd al-Shaabi militias were in command of armed forces and part of the state. "Hashd al-Shaabi are financed by the government and they are above any sectarian discourse," he added.
According to local sources, at least 19 civilians were killed in Fallujah by artillery and airstrikes carried out by the Iraqi army and their allies since the offensive began Sunday night.
Located along the Euphrates River about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of capital Baghdad, Fallujah -- which fell to Daesh in early 2014 -- is currently home to some 90,000 people.
*Anadolu Agency Correspondent Burcu Arik contributed to this report from Istanbul.