Iraqi Troops Seize Fallujah Hospital, Clear Mines

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from ABCNews,

Iraqi forces gained control of the main hospital in Fallujah on Saturday and were clearing mines after driving the Islamic State group from most of the city, one of its last remaining strongholds in the Anbar province west of Baghdad, a military official said.

Fighting was still underway in parts of the city, where U.S. and Iraqi warplanes targeted snipers and other IS positions, Brig. Gen. Haider al-Obeidi told The Associated Press.

Troops had cautiously advanced toward the hospital, fearing that the militants would use patients as human shields, but when they stormed the facility they found no patients inside, he said, adding that the Iraqi flag has been raised over the building.

The troops later captured the Dubbat neighborhood and are now pushing into the northern neighborhood of Golan and several small areas, he said.

Iraqi special forces swept into Fallujah on Friday, recapturing most of the city after weeks of fighting on its outskirts. Al-Obeidi said Friday that Iraqi troops controlled 80 percent of the city, with IS fighters concentrated in four districts on its northern edge.

Fallujah was the first Iraqi city to fall to the extremist group, in January 2014, and was the last major IS foothold in the sprawling Anbar province, the heartland of the country’s Sunni minority. The group still controls Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in the north.

On Friday evening, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi spoke on national TV from the joint command center, congratulating the troops on their victories. “We promised to liberate Fallujah, and it has returned to the embrace of the nation,” he said.

The conflict in Iraq has forced more than 3.3 million people to flee their homes. Iraq is also hosting up to 300,000 refugees who have fled the civil war in neighboring Syria. Most are living in camps or informal settlements.

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