US-led coalition aircraft hit about 40 vehicles in an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) convoy south of Fallujah on Wednesday, according to reports. US military officials told Reuters that the convoy was largely destroyed and at least 250 militants were killed.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, however, and warned that the preliminary estimate may change.
Combat footage that surfaced online shows dozens of completely gutted civilian trucks, minivans, and SUVs that were allegedly part of an Islamic State convoy. Some were apparently transporting heavy weapons or ammunition.
Fallujah, which is located some 60 kilometers from Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, had been under the control of Islamists since 2014. Top Iraqi officials declared full victory over IS in the city in mid-June after a nearly five-week offensive, but due to the back-and-forth nature of the struggle, urban fighting still continued for more than one week more.
Iraq finally declared Fallujah fully liberated last week after government troops entered the al-Julan neighborhood in the northwestern part of the city, which had been IS’ last remaining stronghold.
The US-led coalition, which first launched air strikes on the Islamists in Iraq last August, claims to have destroyed 565 IS targets in 106 air raids over the last week.
The unexpectedly swift victory in Fallujah has raised questions about how many militants had actually been occupying the city. Colonel Chris Garver, the US-led anti-IS operation’s spokesman, said on Wednesday that Iraqi estimates suggest that the Islamic State group suffered more than 1,000 casualties.
During the battle for Fallujah, some IS units engaged Iraqi forces in street-to-street fighting, but some preferred to fall back. The terror group “was not monolithic” in Fallujah Garver said, as cited by the Military Times.
“Some people fought harder than other people did. Some people tried to melt away,” he noted. In “different neighborhoods, you get a different answer.”
Once Fallujah is fully free of Islamic State fighters and mines, the Iraqi government aims to concentrate on launching an offensive to take back terrorist-controlled Mosul, the country’s second largest city.