Iraq announces truce in Fallujah

February 23, 2014 - 6:20:04 am
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s defence ministry yesterday announced a 72-hour halt to military operations in the city of Fallujah, which has been held by anti-government fighters for weeks.

The announcement raises the possibility of negotiations to end the crisis, during which gunmen have also seized parts of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, highlighting both the reach of militants and the weakness of security forces.

While the loss of control in the two Anbar cities has posed a major challenge for Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s government, a successful resolution to the crisis could give the premier a boost ahead of parliamentary polls scheduled for April.

“Military operations taken against selected terrorist organisation targets in Fallujah have been stopped for a period of 72 hours” starting from the night before, the defence ministry said in a statement. The decision was taken “in response to goodwill and frequent communications with the forces of good and people calling for peace, and to stop the bloodshed in Fallujah,” it added.

Security forces have carried out shelling and strikes inside Fallujah, just a short drive from Baghdad, and periodically clashed with gunmen in the area.

The defence ministry announcement comes a week after Maliki visited Ramadi for talks with provincial officials and the leaders of powerful local tribes.

The Iraqi government has also pledged compensation for Anbar residents whose property was damaged in the violence, and training for tribesmen who fought on the side of security forces.

The measures were the latest in a bid to placate people in Anbar province, and Iraq’s broader Sunni Arab minority, who have complained of marginalisation by the government and of being unfairly targeted by heavy-handed security measures.