Iraqi government forces, backed by U.S. and coalition airstrikes, have launched a military offensive to recapture Fallujah from Islamic State militants who overran the Iraqi city more than two years ago.
The battle for the city, located east of Baghdad, began overnight Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said in a televised announcement. The offensive includes Iraqi troops, police, and Shia militias.
Reuters reporters in Baghdad described the fight on Monday:
Some of the first direct clashes occurred in the area of al-Hayakil on Falluja's southern outskirts, a resident said. Iraqi troops also approached the northern suburb of Garma, the top municipal official there said, to clear out militants before turning their attention toward the city center.
Air strikes and mortar salvoes overnight targeted neighborhoods inside the city where Islamic State is believed to maintain its headquarters. The bombardment had eased by daybreak.
Seven civilians and two militants were killed in the shelling, while 21 civilians and two militants were wounded, a source at Falluja's medical center said.
The number of fatalities is expected to rise. No casualties among Iraqi troops were reported Monday, according to Reuters.