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Iraqi forces launch offensive to retake Fallujah

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BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces have launched an offensive to retake the Islamic State stronghold of Fallujah, in the wake of warning residents to leave before the fighting started.

The US-led coalition that has bombed Islamic State in Iraq and neighbouring Syria for nearly two years was expected to provide air support.

“Zero hour for the liberation of Fallujah has arrived. The moment of great victory has drawn near and Daesh has no choice but to flee,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on his official Twitter feed, using an Arabic acronym for the jihadist group.

He said the offensive would be conducted by the army, police, counterterrorism forces, local tribal fighters, and a coalition of mostly Shiite Muslim militias.

Fallujah, a longtime bastion of Sunni Muslim jihadists 50 kilometres west of Baghdad, was the first city to fall to the jihadists.

Islamic State took control of the city in January 2014, six months before the group declared a caliphate spanning large parts of Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi officials said Shiite militias, including ones backed by neighbouring Iran, may be restricted to operating outside the city proper, as they were largely in the battle for Ramadi, to avoid aggravating sectarian tensions with Sunni residents.

The Iraqi army, police and the militias, backed by coalition air strikes, have surrounded Fallujah since late last year, while the jihadists have been preventing residents from leaving for months.

Families who cannot flee should raise white flags to mark their location in the city, the military’s media unit said in a statement on state television, a tactic employed with some success in other recent offensives.

Reuters

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‘C’ Division League Football tournament set for February

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KATHMANDU— The Martyrs Memorial ‘C’ Division League Football Championship is set to take place in the third week of February 2019.

On Thursday the meeting held between the representatives of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) and ‘C’ Division clubs at ANFA Complex in Satdobato, Lalitpur set the date for the tournament, shared ANFA Spokesperson Kiran Rai.

League Director Sanjeeb Mishra said, “The ANFA and Club’s representatives have agreed to conduct the competition in the final week of February (second week of Falgun). We will finalize the specific date for the tournament in near future”.

Eleven ‘C’ Division clubs will take part in the Division League.

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