Government forces are attempting to regain control of Isis base 40 miles west of Baghdad, says al-Abadi in a TV address
Iraqs prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, announced the beginning of military operations to retake the Islamic State-held held city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in a televised address late on Sunday night.
Iraqi forces were approaching a moment of great victory against Isis , said al-Abadi, who was surrounded by top military commanders from the ministry of defence and the countrys elite counter-terrorism forces. Fallujah is about 40 miles west of Baghdad and has been under the control of Isis for more than two years.
The announcement comes at a time of deepening political and social unrest in Baghdad. Clashes between protesters and Iraqi security forces inside Baghdads highly fortified green zone compound left four people dead after security forces fired tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition in an attempt to disperse the crowds. More than 100 people were wounded, said hospital and police officials. They spoke anonymously as they were not authorised to brief the press. The green zone houses most Iraqi government ministries and foreign embassies.
Al-Abadis office released a preliminary investigation on Sunday that claimed police and military guards did not fire directly into the crowd of demonstrators, according to a statement released on Sunday by Saad al-Hadithi, the prime ministers spokesman.
Many of the protesters were supporters of powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has led months of demonstrations and sit-ins calling for government reforms. Al-Sadr has since issued a statement condemning the use of force against peaceful demonstrations and vowed to continue to support the revolution against the government.
Al-Abadi spoke by phone with President Barack Obama on Saturday and agreed on the critical importance of improving the security of Baghdad and the green zone, according to a White House statement. It added that the two leaders also discussed progress being made in the campaign against Isis.
Iraqs political crisis has left the government deadlocked as security forces struggle to fight Isis. In the midst of the political crisis, Iraqi ground forces backed by US-led coalition air support have achieved a number of territorial gains against Isis, most recently in Iraqs vast western Anbar province.
Last week, Iraqi forces pushed Isis out of the western town of Rutba, 240 miles west of Baghdad, on the edge of Anbar province. Last month, Iraqi forces cleared territory along Anbars Euphrates river valley after the provincial capital Ramadi was declared fully liberated earlier this year.
However, Fallujah is expected to be a complicated fight. The city is still home to tens of thousands of civilians and has been under Isis rule longer than any other territory recently retaken by Iraqi forces. Iraqi security forces repeated calls for civilians trapped inside Fallujah to flee on Sunday, but residents say that checkpoints controlled by Isis along all roads leading out of the city are preventing most from fleeing.
Despite a string of territorial defeats, Isis still controls significant patches of Iraqi territory in the countrys north and west including the countrys second largest city, Mosul. The militant group also has claimed responsibility for a series of large-scale bombings in and around Baghdad recently that killed hundreds of people.