NEAR FALLUJAH, Iraq: Iraqi forces have launched a major assault to retake Fallujah, the scene of deadly battles during the US occupation and one of the toughest targets yet in Baghdad’s war on the Islamic State group. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, made the announcement early Monday and then visited the battle’s operations room. “We are beginning the operation to liberate Fallujah,” he said in a statement. “The Iraqi flag will be raised high over the land of Fallujah.” Abadi said that special forces, soldiers, police, militia forces and pro-government tribesmen were taking part in the offensive to retake the city, located in Anbar province just 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of Baghdad. Iraqi forces had not yet entered the city, but an Agence France-Presse photographer near Fallujah said they were advancing while aircraft carried out strikes on targets inside the city. Abadi’s announcement settled the issue of which IS-held city Iraq should seek to retake next — a subject of debate among Iraqi officials and international forces helping the country fight the jihadists.