As Iraqi forces prepare to try to recapture the city of Falluja, tens of thousands of civilians find themselves trapped between Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants ready to use them as human shields and a government suspicious of their loyalties.
With the jihadists coercing them to stay, and a government blockade and shelling closing exit routes and cutting off supplies, there is “a vice, a noose around the neck of the population,” Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, told Reuters.
Iraq’s Shiite Muslim-led government on Monday announced the start of operations to “liberate Anbar,” the province west of Baghdad whose Sunni Muslim cities and towns along the Euphrates have since last year become ISIS strongholds.
“Since military operations began, it has become impossible to leave,” said one 42-year-old teacher.
“They (ISIS) have planted bombs at the entrance and exits to the city and on the main roads to prevent security forces entering or citizens leaving.”
Communication with those still inside Falluja is increasingly difficult. The teacher was afraid to let his name be used, and his comments were relayed to Reuters by a friend.
Baghdad’s last military push against ISIS, to retake Tikrit in April, came after most citizens had fled.
Leaders of the Shiite militias fighting alongside Iraq’s army say Falluja’s civilians will be evacuated before the final push, but, in a climate of fear, residents are not confident.
This week, hundreds of fighters who said they had come from Syria and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul paraded through Falluja, said the teacher, whose account of ISIS’ tight control was echoed by other sources. Preachers in mosques were warning people not to cooperate with security forces and, after prayers, Islamists were delivering “jihadist lectures.”
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر