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Iraq's Fallujah 'laid to waste' during recapture from IS

Watch now: Iraqi forces have declared they have 'fully liberated' Fallujah from IS [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 June, 2016

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Video: The month-long operation to retake the longtime Islamic State bastion of Fallujah has left much of the city 'devastated', say locals and security officials.
Iraqi officials have said that recently recaptured city of Fallujah has been "laid to waste" during the month-long operation to take back the city from the Islamic State group [IS].

Locals and officials have said much of the city, 65 kilometres west of Baghdad, has been destroyed and that many homes and shops have been looted and burned by Shia militias operating with the federal police.

Iraqi forces declared on Sunday they had "fully liberated" Fallujah from the Sunni extremist group that took over the city more than two years ago.

"More than half the city has been destroyed and it's still getting worse with the ongoing looting and burning of homes, businesses and places of worship by the militias," a Fallujah local told The New Arab.

The city's basic infrastructure has been almost completely destroyed with 400 educational facilities, 238 health centres, 44 residential compounds, 7,000 homes and 6,000 shops being heavily damaged in the fighting, according to preliminary reports.

Colonel Salim al-Falahi said that the city has been "devastated".

"The dead bodies of civilians are scattered in the streets and under the rubble of buildings. The city has been taken back at any cost from the plague of IS," Falahi said.

     
     

On Monday, thick clouds of black smoke billowed over the Julan neighbourhood in northwestern Fallujah, one of the last strongholds of the militants, from dozens of burning homes.

Some commanders have said many of the fires burning were lit by militiamen operating with the federal police.

Police Brigadier Fadhil Saadi said: "Fallujah has been left in ruins like other recaptured cities. The have been undeniable acts of sectarian terrorism against locals by a limited number of members of the Shia militias."

The Shia militias largely had remained on Fallujah's outskirts during the operation while the Special Forces and federal police took the lead in clearing the centre of the city.

Fearing sectarian conflict, authorities did not want the militias inside the city that has long been a stronghold of Sunni opposition to the Shia-led government in Baghdad.

More than 20,000 civilians fleeing Fallujah are being screened by Iraq's security forces to identify IS militants attempting to escape, the army said on Sunday.

The UN estimates 85,000 people have fled Fallujah in the past month, and many are sheltering in hot, overcrowded camps in the middle of the desert as the Iraqi government is ill-prepared to deal with the humanitarian crisis.

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