The Islamic State Is Reportedly Rounding Up Civilians to Use As Human Shields in Fallujah
The Islamic State has reportedly moved civilians to the center of Fallujah, attempting to use residents of the Iraqi city as shields to ward off government recapture, according to humanitarian officials and local leaders.
Fallujah, a mere 40 miles from Baghdad in Anbar province, has remained in the hands of IS since early 2014, after it became the first large city to fall to the militants. On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced an offensive to retake it, saying “the Iraqi flag will soon be flying in the sky of Fallujah.” The decision followed a series of deadly suicide bombings carried out by IS in Baghdad, which claimed the lives of more than a hundred people.
On Monday, government forces and Shiite militias attacked the city, backed by airstrikes from the US-led anti-IS coalition. Abadi said on Sunday that Sunni tribal fighters would take part in the fighting, but it was unclear to what extent they were involved. As shells and air strikes rained down on the city, few civilians were able to leave, and many were moved to central areas by IS militants.
“ISIS has been moving families into the center of the city as shields, and to stop the bombardment from Iraqi and coalition forces, but the bombardment has gone ahead,” said Nasr Muflahi, Iraq country director at the Norwegian Refugee Council, using an acronym for the extremist group.
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