Iraqi commander: Fallujah ‘fully liberated’ from Daesh

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This image made from Associated Press video shows Iraqi troops displaying the Daesh flag upside down in Fallujah, Iraq, on Sunday. (AP Video via AP)
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Iraqi troop carry an Iraqi flags on their tanks after a senior Iraqi commander declared that the city of Fallujah was "fully liberated" from Daesh militants, in Fallujah, Iraq, on Sunday. (AP Video via AP)
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A tank fires during clashes in Fallujah, Iraq, on Sunday. (AP Video via AP)
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Iraqi soldiers enter a building in Fallujah, Iraq, on Sunday. (AP Video via AP)
Updated 26 June 2016
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Iraqi commander: Fallujah ‘fully liberated’ from Daesh

BAGHDAD: A senior Iraqi commander declared that the city of Fallujah was “fully liberated” from Daesh group militants on Sunday, after a more than monthlong military operation.
Iraqi troops have entered the northwestern Al-Julan neighborhood, the last area of Fallujah to remain under Daesh control, the head of the counterterrorism forces in the operation, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab Al-Saadi, told The Associated Press.
Al-Saadi said the operation, which began in late May, “is done and the city is fully liberated.” The Iraqi army was backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops, mostly Shiite militias.
“From the center of Al-Julan neighborhood, we congratulate the Iraqi people and the commander in chief...and declare that the Fallujah fight is over,” he told Iraqi state TV, flanked by military officers and soldiers. Some of the soldiers were shooting in the air, chanting and waving the Iraqi flag.
He added that troops will start working on removing bombs from the city’s streets and buildings.
The announcement comes more than a week after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared victory in Fallujah after Iraqi forces advanced into the city center and took control of a government complex. While Al-Abadi pledged the remaining pockets of IS fighters would be cleared out within hours, fierce clashes on the city’s northern and western edges persisted for days.
The operation has fueled an exodus of thousands of families, overwhelming camps for the displaced run by the government and aid groups.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, more than 85,000 people have fled Fallujah and the surrounding area since the offensive began. Like other aid agencies, the UNHCR warned of the dire conditions in the camps, where temperatures are well over 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) and shelter is limited, calling for more funds to meet the mounting needs of the displaced.
Fallujah has been under the control of Daesh militants since January 2014.
Fallujah, which is located in Anbar province about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, was the first city to fall to IS in January 2014. During an insurgency waged by IS group’s militant predecessor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Fallujah was the scene of some of the bloodiest urban combat with American forces. In 2004, more than 100 US troops died and another 1,000 were wounded fighting insurgents in house-to-house battles.
IS extremists still control significant areas in northern and western Iraq, including the country’s second-largest city of Mosul. The group declared an Islamic caliphate on the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria and at the height of its power was estimated to hold nearly a third of each country.
In total, more than 3.3 million Iraqis have fled their homes since IS swept across northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014, according to UN figures. More than 40 percent of the displaced are from Anbar province,
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Associated Press writer Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.


US weighing options on American Daesh sympathizer in Syria

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) stands guard on top of a building on February 17, 2019, in the frontline Syrian village of Baghuz. (AFP)
Updated 20 February 2019
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US weighing options on American Daesh sympathizer in Syria

  • Neither option would likely pass muster in the cases of US citizens, who enjoy strong legal protections under the Constitution

WASHINGTON: The United States said Tuesday it wanted to ensure foreign terrorists remain off the battlefield as it weighed options on an American detained in Syria who says she wants to return home.
The United States has urged European powers to take back hundreds of their citizens who fought with the Daesh group in Syria, but acknowledged the situation was complex in the rare case of an American terrorist.
Hoda Muthana, a 24-year-old from Alabama who became a prominent online agitator for the extremists, said in an interview published Sunday with The Guardian that she had been brainwashed online and “deeply regrets” joining the movement.
While declining to discuss Muthana’s case specifically, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Palladino said that the status of US citizens detained in Syria “is by definition extremely complicated.”
“We’re looking into these cases to better understand the details,” he told reporters.
Palladino said that the United States generally did not see a different solution between what to do with US fighters and with foreigners, saying the fighters pose “a global threat.”
“Repatriating these foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin, ensuring that they are prosecuted and detained — that’s the best solution, preventing them from returning to the battlefield,” he said.
The situation of foreign terrorists detained by US-allied Kurdish forces has taken a new urgency as President Donald Trump plans to withdraw US troops from Syria.
The Syrian Democratic Forces say they may have to refocus on fighting Turkey, which has vowed to crush Kurdish fighters it links to separatists at home.
Trump has contemplated reopening the US military base at Guantanamo Bay to take in new foreign inmates, while Britain on Tuesday revoked the citizenship of a female terrorsist who wanted to return home with her newborn baby.
Neither option would likely pass muster in the cases of US citizens, who enjoy strong legal protections under the Constitution.
Muthana, who was married three times to terrorists and has a son with one of her husbands, fled her family in 2014 to join the Daesh group in Syria, where she took to Twitter to urge attacks on fellow Americans.
In the interview with The Guardian, Muthana said that she was “really young and ignorant” when she joined Daesh and has since renounced radicalism.
“I believe that America gives second chances. I want to return and I’ll never come back to the Middle East,” she told the newspaper.
Hassan Shilby, a lawyer for Muthana, told ABC television’s “Good Morning America” that the young woman had been “brainwashed and manipulated” and is “absolutely disgusted” by the person she became.