RAMADI: Iraqi troops will delay assaulting the militant-held city of Fallujah, an officer said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), citing possible civilian casualties, as fighting and missile strikes in nearby Ramadi killed 29 people.
Bombings and shootings elsewhere killed 27 people, among them 12 members of the security forces.
Parts of Ramadi—the capital of Anbar province, west of Baghdad—and all of Fallujah have been outside government control since last week.
It is the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the 2003 United States-led invasion.
“It is not possible to assault [Fallujah] now” over concerns about civilian casualties, Defense ministry spokesman Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said.
Attacking the Sunni-majority city would also be extremely politically sensitive, inflaming already high tensions between the Sunni Arab minority and the Shiite-led government.
And it would be a major test for Iraqi security forces, which have yet to undertake such an operation without the backing of American troops.