Ramadi: Iraqi troops will delay assaulting the militant-held city of Fallujah, an officer said Tuesday, 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 US-led invasion.
“It is not possible to assault (Fallujah) now” over concerns about civilian casualties, according to defence ministry spokesman Staff Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Askari.
Attacking the Sunni-majority city would also be extremely politically sensitive, inflaming already high tensions between the Sunni Arab minority and the Shia-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.
Overnight, security forces and allied tribesmen sought to retake south Ramadi from al Qaeda-linked group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, but the assault failed.
He said that after seven hours of fighting, “security forces were not able to enter these areas and ISIL fighters are still in control”.
Four civilians were killed and 14 wounded, said Ramadi hospital's Dr Ahmed Abdul Salam, who had no casualty figures for security forces or militants.
Later Tuesday, missile strikes in Ramadi killed 25 militants, Askari said.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called on residents to expel ISIL to stave off a military offensive.