Shelling kills 11 in Iraq’s Fallujah: doctor
Iraqi residents inspect damages - AFP/Saddam Hussein

BAGHDAD: Shelling killed 11 people on Saturday in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which has been held by anti-government fighters for more than four months, a doctor said.

The bombardment and twin shootings that killed two people in Nineveh province in the north were the latest in a protracted surge of violence that has killed more than 3,100 people this year.

They came with the count still under way from a April 30 general election, Iraq’s first since US troops withdrew in late 2011,

A further 20 people were wounded by the Fallujah bombardment, Doctor Ahmed Shami of the city’s main hospital said.

Security forces have launched an operation to retake areas near the city, which lies just a short drive west of Baghdad, in preparation for an eventual assault.

But such an assault is unlikely to occur soon, as troops have struggled all year to regain territory in Anbar province from militants.

And they would face a major challenge in recapturing the city without causing civilian casualties and significant damage to infrastructure.

The crisis in the desert province, which shares a long border with war-torn Syria, erupted in late December when security forces dismantled a longstanding protest camp maintained by the province’s mainly Sunni Arab population to vent their grievances against the Shiite-led government.

Militants subsequently seized parts of provincial capital Ramadi and all of Fallujah, the first time anti-government forces have exercised such open control in major cities since the peak of the deadly violence that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

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