Terrified families emerge from rubble after battle of Ramadi

A destroyed building is seen near a government complex in the city of Ramadi. (Reuters)

Terrified families waved white flags as they emerged from homes reduced to rubble in the Iraqi city of Ramadi, where government troops were still battling ISIS fighters holed up on Friday, five days after the army recaptured the city center.

The provincial capital in the fertile Euphrates River valley west of Baghdad is the biggest city to have been recaptured from ISIS, and the first retaken by Iraq’s army since it collapsed in the path of the militants’ advance 18 months ago.

The victory has been hailed as a turning point by the Iraqi government, which says its rebuilt army will soon march on ISIS’ main Iraqi stronghold Mosul further north, and defeat the group in Iraq in 2016.

Civilians flee to a safe area with help from Iraqi security forces in Ramadi city, December 31, 2015.  reuters

Civilians flee to a safe area with help from Iraqi security forces in Ramadi city, December 31, 2015. reuters

As an Iraqi army column advanced through the ruined city, an elderly woman emerged from a home waving a white flag on the end of a stick. Soon, she was followed by children, a wounded woman being pushed in a wheelbarrow and men carrying small children in their arms. They flinched as explosions could be heard in the distance.

“They (ISIS) are not Muslims, they are beasts,” one of the men rescued from the central district told a Reuters television cameraman accompanying the advancing Iraqi column.

“We thank our security forces, from the soldiers to the generals. They saved us,” the man said before breaking into tears.

Another man told Reuters television that the fighters had killed seven people who refused to come with them to another district where they were making a stand.

Major Salam Hussein told Reuters television that the militants were using families as human shields. More than 52 families had been rescued so far in the city, he said.

Another military officer, reached by telephone from the battlefield, said security forces were using loudspeakers to urge civilians to head toward the advancing troops, before calling air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition on residential blocks still held by the militants.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:49 - GMT 06:49