If ISIS decides to stand and fight we’ll see a bloodbath on both sides, still a good chance they will just melt away rather than try to hold their ground in the face of superior firepower.
(Reuters) – Iraqi security forces are preparing to storm Falluja and break a month-long standoff with militants who are in control of the city, senior security officials and troops told Reuters on Saturday.
Anti-government fighters, among them insurgents linked with al Qaeda, overran two cities in the Sunni-dominated western province of Anbar on January 1. against a backdrop of deteriorating security across the country.
At least 12 people were killed in bombings across Iraq on Saturday, mostly in the capital Baghdad, just 70 km (40 miles) away from Falluja, a city currently surrounded by the army.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had held off an all out assault on the city to give local tribesmen a chance to expel the militants themselves, but security officials told Reuters a decision had been made to enter Falluja by 6 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Sunday.
“That’s it: they were given enough time to make their choice, but they failed,” a top security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said of the tribesmen and militants.
Some of the militants have raised the black banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is seeking to establish a Sunni state straddling the border between Anbar and Syria, where the group is also active.
The official said the governor of Anbar had sent a “final warning” to militants and tribal fighters in Falluja. Whoever wanted to leave the city would be given safe passage and those who lay down their arms will be offered amnesty, he added.
“The message was clear, we offered them to leave the city and be a part of the national reconciliation project,” the security official said. “But, if anyone insists on fighting our forces, he will be considered an ISIL militant whether he is or not.”