Iraqi forces advance on Fallujah; Some civilians find safe haven, others are ISIL shields

by WorldTribune Staff, May 25, 2016

Dozens of families have managed to flee Fallujah, but many of the thousands who remain are likely to be used as human shields by Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) as Iraqi forces advance.

“We have secured safe passage for (some) residents,” said Rajaa Barakat, a member of the provincial council of Anbar province.

Iraqi security forces and allied Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces and Sunni tribal fighters, take combat positions outside Fallujah, west of Baghdad, on May 23. /Rwa Faisal/AP
Iraqi security forces and allied Shi’ite fighters take combat positions outside Fallujah on May 23. /Rwa Faisal/AP

ISIL has imposed a curfew in Fallujah and has moved many residents to the city center to use as human shields, USA Today reported on May 25. The city has been under ISIL’s control since early 2014.

ISIL jihadists were killing residents who attempted to flee the city, and those who remain face shortages of food and medicine, the United Nations said.

Iraq’s military and Shi’ite militias have surrounded Fallujah and have all but cut off ISIL from supplies and reinforcements, military officials said.

“Popular mobilization and security forces have tightened its fist on Fallujah,” said Akram al Kabi, head of Harakat Nujaba, a Shi’ite militia participating in the battle for Fallujah. “We are advancing quickly toward the city.”

Gen. Abdul Wahab al Saadi, chief of the Fallujah operation, said “we are pushing steadily and very soon we will control the main highway north of the city.”

An Iraqi military official said heavy artillery and airstrikes by the Iraqi air force have weakened ISIL’s hold on Fallujah and the “moral authority” of the jihadists with residents is also gone and that Iraq would “achieve victory soon.”

Local police said in a statement that ISIL continues to make it difficult for ground troops to enter the city.

“We are facing very severe resistance, many booby traps and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) that we need to deal with before we move forward,” the statement said. “The bombs (ISIL) planted makes it hard to advance.”

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