ADDS WHITE HOUSE COMMENTS
By Suleyman al-Qubeisi
ANBAR, Iraq (AA) – Three Iraqi troops were killed Tuesday amid ongoing efforts to capture the city of Fallujah in Iraq’s western Anbar province from the Daesh terrorist group, according to a local police official.
Anbar Police Captain Ahmed al-Delimi told Anadolu Agency that more than 100 Daesh terrorists had staged a "fierce attack" on invading Iraqi forces in the city’s southern Al-Naimiyah and Al-Shohadaa districts.
Monday’s reported attack comes amid a week-old campaign by the Iraqi army and its allies to capture Fallujah from Daesh.
Army Lieut.-Gen. Abdel Wahab al-Saedi, who is leading the operation, told Anadolu Agency that security forces had successfully beat back the militant attack.
Several Daesh gunmen, he said, had been killed by airstrikes carried out by the U.S. and Iraqi air forces that had targeted Daesh positions in the beleaguered city.
The operation to retake Fallujah, which officially began May 22, involves Iraqi army troops, counter-terrorism forces, federal police units, the Hashd al-Shaabi (an umbrella of Iraqi Shia militias) and armed tribesmen.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the offensive would be a "test of the determination and tenacity of Iraqi forces.
"They've shown that determination, and tenacity and resilience on the battlefield in making progress against ISIL in places like Anbar Province and Ramadi," he said referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, another name for Daesh. "They'll certainly be challenged to display those qualities in the long fight to retake Fallujah."
In a related development Tuesday, roughly 100 local youths in Fallujah were abducted by Daesh gunmen, according to local tribal sources.
"Scores of Daesh militants raided the homes of local residents, abducted about 100 young people and whisked them off to unknown locations," Sheikh Majid al-Jerisi, a local tribal chief, told Anadolu Agency by phone.
"While raiding our homes, the militants insulted us, calling us cowards for failing to support them," he said.
Al-Jerisi attributed the move to the terrorist group’s recent loss of Fallujah’s city center to invading Iraqi forces.
On Monday, local security sources said Iraqi army forces and allied Shia militias had "surrounded" most parts of Fallujah as Daesh militants attempted to halt their advance with the use of booby-trapped cars, Katyusha rockets, howitzers and land mines.
Located along the Euphrates River about 50 kilometers west of Iraqi capital Baghdad, Fallujah -- which fell to Daesh in early 2014 -- is believed to be home to some 90,000 residents.
According to Iraq’s Migration and Displacement Ministry, over 550 families have fled war-battered Fallujah since the campaign to retake the city began more than one week ago.
*Anadolu Agency correspondents Ahmet Sait Akcay and Mahmoud Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara, and Michael Hernandez contributed from Washington.