Middle East

The Latest: Iraqi forces start pushing into IS-held Fallujah

Commander of the Fallujah operation, Lt. General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, center, inspects his forces ahead of an operation to re-take the Islamic State-held City of Fallujah, outside Fallujah, Iraq, Sunday, May 29, 2016. Teaming up with paramilitary troops and backed by aerial support from the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi government launched a large-scale offensive to dislodge IS militants from the city of Fallujah, one of the last major IS strongholds in Iraq located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

Commander of the Fallujah operation, Lt. General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, center, inspects his forces ahead of an operation to re-take the Islamic State-held City of Fallujah, outside Fallujah, Iraq, Sunday, May 29, 2016. Teaming up with paramilitary troops and backed by aerial support from the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi government launched a large-scale offensive to dislodge IS militants from the city of Fallujah, one of the last major IS strongholds in Iraq located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)  (The Associated Press)

The Latest on developments in Iraq (all times local):

12:50 p.m.

An Iraqi special forces commander says Iraqi forces have started pushing into Fallujah as part of the ongoing operation to oust Islamic State militants from this city west of Baghdad.

Brig. Haider al-Obeidi with the elite counterterrorism troops says the push started at dawn on Monday from the southern edge under the cover of coalition air support.

Al-Obeidi says the clashes as "fierce," with IS extremists deploying snipers and releasing a volley of mortar rounds.

The operation to recapture Fallujah, which is located 65 kilometers or 40 miles west of Baghdad, was first announced last week.

Fallujah fist fell to IS more than two years ago and is one of the group's last strongholds in western Iraq. The militants still control patches of territory in the country's north and east, as well as the second largest city of Mosul.

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10:50 a.m.

A wave of bombings claimed by the Islamic State group has targeted commercial areas in Baghdad and near the Iraqi capital, killing at least 24 people.

The assaults come on Monday came as Iraqi forces were poised to push into Fallujah in an offensive to recapture the Islamic State-held city from the militants. The deadliest of the day's attacks came in Baghdad's northern, Shiite-dominated Shaab neighborhood where a suicide car bomber rammed into a checkpoint, killing eight civilians and three soldiers.