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FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) — Clumps of hair from hastily shaven beards littered floors and filled wastebaskets in houses in the Iraqi city of Fallujah's western neighborhood, a dense block of low-rise homes that were the Islamic State militants' last stand before they largely fled, melting into the sprawling Anbar desert in the face of advancing Iraqi ground forces.
Iraqi officers said they bombed convoys of fleeing militants this week, destroying dozens of vehicles and purportedly killing scores of IS fighters.
Way - IS - Stronghold - Group - Ability
But the way IS abandoned the long-held urban stronghold also underscores the group's ability to adapt and regroup, long after defeat on the battlefield.
In the city's Julan neighborhood, Iraqi Cpl. Sahar Najim kicked through the refuse of facial hair with his boot, saying that he has seen similar scenes in other cities and towns retaken from IS. As the militants realize they are losing, they quickly shave off their beards to disguise themselves and escape among fleeing civilians, he said.
Fallujah - Kilometers - Miles - West - Baghdad
Losing Fallujah, 65 kilometers (40 miles) west of Baghdad, was a huge blow to the Sunni militant group, depriving it of bomb-making facilities, a safe haven for training recruits and sources of income through taxing the local population.
To the east, in the city's industrial neighborhood, dozens of car repair shops had been converted into car bomb factories. A garage still advertising Toyota car repairs was stocked with plastic jugs filled with chemicals.
Iraqi - Forces - Fallujah - Sunday - Government
Iraqi forces declared Fallujah fully liberated on Sunday, after government troops routed the remaining IS fighters from the city's north and west under the close cover of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. The battle, which began May 22, was the latest in a string of territorial defeats for IS in Iraq over the past year.
At the height of the group's power, in 2014, IS rendered nearly a third of the country out of government...
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