US airstrikes target ISIS vehicle convoy in Iraq
(CNN) — Airstrikes hit a convoy of more than 500 vehicles leaving Falluja, killing dozens of ISIS militants trying to flee the city, Iraqi officials said.
The operation started Monday night and is still ongoing Thursday, according to the nation’s defense ministry.
A U.S. official said U.S. planes conducted a precision strike on a multi-truck convoy leaving a southern suburb of Falluja.
The operation required American aircraft because there were a lot of civilians in the area, the official said. U.S. officials declined to comment on the number of militants killed.
The airstrikes come days after the Iraqi military announced that its troops had seized Falluja from ISIS.
The city was liberated Sunday after the military recaptured the last neighborhood in Falluja, said Lt. General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, commander of the liberation of the city.
Hundreds of militants killed
Iraqi forces killed more than 1,800 ISIS militants during the operations to recapture the city and villages surrounding it, al-Saadi said Sunday. CNN cannot independently verify all fighting in every area of Falluja has ended.
ISIS appears to be on the defensive across the Middle East — from its self-declared capital of Raqqa in Syria to Falluja, a strategically important city just 65 kilometers (40 miles) from the capital of Baghdad.
In a symbolic victory, Iraqi police raised the national flag over the Falluja mayor’s office.
The move came nearly four weeks after the start of a U.S.-backed offensive to liberate the city, which was the last major ISIS foothold in Iraq’s Anbar province.
Fierce fighting has taken place street by street, and bombs remain a concern as ISIS fighters flee the city.
Many houses are booby-trapped, forcing Iraqi forces to move slowly and methodically to clear improvised explosive devices.
Despite the complete recapture of Falluja, aid groups stressed that safety is still a concern and urged displaced families not to return home.
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