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Operation Fallujah: Iran's 'Shadow Commander' arrives to oversee fighting Open in fullscreen

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Operation Fallujah: Iran's 'Shadow Commander' arrives to oversee fighting

Soleimani is in charge of Tehran's 'overseas operations' in Syria and Iraq [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 May, 2016

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Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has arrived in Fallujah to supervise efforts to retake the city from Islamic State, in a move that has sparked anger from some local leaders.

Iran's general has arrived on the eastern outskirts of the Islamic State group [IS] bastion of Fallujah in Iraq, as government forces advanced on the city from the south in a bid to recapture it from militants, a local military source has said.

Major General Qassem Soleimani of the Revolutionary Guard's al-Quds Force arrived in Fallujah on Tuesday to supervise the ongoing push to retake the city.

"Soleimani has set up base at a farm that was a tourist resort and palace of former president Saddam Hussein before the US invasion. He is overseeing the progress of the fighting," the source told The New Arab.

Soleimani - known as the "Shadow Commander" - was reported critically injured in Syria late last year, he is in charge of Tehran's "overseas operations" in Syria and Iraq.

Militias have published images of Soleimani meeting with military leaders.

The images have sparked anger from some Sunni leaders who have considered the move a breach of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's promises to keep foreign forces and militias out of the battle.

Anbar tribal leader Sheikh Fadaam al-Issawi told The New Arab: "The militias have come to exact revenge; not liberate Fallujah."

     
     

On Wednesday, Forces from Iraq's 8th Division backed by tribal fighters set out from the Amriyat al-Fallujah area, south of the city, and the al-Salam intersection to its south-west.

US-led coalition and Iraqi forces provided air support, said Staff Major General Ismail al-Mahalawi, the head of the Anbar Operations Command.

Abadi announced the start of the long-awaited operation to retake the city early on Monday and less than a day into the battle, Iraqi forces had secured the nearby town of Garma.

That cut off IS fighters in Fallujah from one of their last support areas and paved the way for more advances towards the city, which lies only 50 kilometres west of Baghdad.

But with forces converging on the city, concerns mounted that the tens of thousands of civilians believed to still be inside had nowhere to go.

Fallujah was seized by anti-government fighters in early 2014 and later became an IS bastion. It is one of two major Iraqi cities still held by the militants.

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