by WorldTribune Staff, June 14, 2016
Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) jihadists are attempting to escape Fallujah by blending in with the thousands of civilians fleeing the besieged city, Iraqi military sources say.
More than 500 suspected ISIL members have been arrested trying to sneak out amid civilians since Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake Fallujah.
“We have arrested 546 suspected terrorists who had fled by taking advantage of the movements of displaced families over the past two weeks,” said Hadi Rzayej, the police chief for Anbar province. “Many of them were using fake IDs.”
The Iraqi army on June 11 opened a corridor to the southwest of the city that has allowed thousands of civilians to escape. When civilians reach government forces, teenage boys and adult men are screened separately. Some are released after a few hours while others undergo more thorough interrogation.
There are believed to be anywhere between 1,000 and 2,500 ISIL jihadists in Fallujah.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said that U.S. Apache helicopters hit an ISIL target for the first time during the U.S.-led fight against the terror group in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has since early December made it clear to the Iraqi government that the U.S. military is willing to use its Apaches based in Iraq to support local forces, but the government had until now declined.