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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

by Sharon Behn May 29, 2016

Iraqi security forces have surrounded Fallujah on four sides ahead of a full scale offense, but there are growing concerns over the plight of civilians trapped inside the Islamic State held city.

"They (IS) have put bombs in the roads, they are using suicide bombers," said Muhamed, an Iraqi special forces soldier on the front line contacted by telephone, speaking on condition his full name not be used.

Fallujah, a Sunni stronghold, has been held by IS longer than any other city in Iraq and the fighters are believed to be deeply entrenched in the city.

"We are just waiting for the order to move in, and kill Daesh (Islamic State)," he said.

As the fighting and airstrikes around the city have intensified, the plight of civilians trapped inside has worsened. While some 800 people have managed to escape, thousands of others have not.

Horrific civilian suffering

UNHCR says it is receiving reports of horrific civilian suffering.

"We have dramatic report of increase in the number of executions of men and older boys unwilling to fight on behalf of ISIL," UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. "Other reports say that a number of people attempting to depart have been executed or whipped. In addition, many people have reported to have been killed or buried under the rubble of their homes in the course of ongoing military operations."

Humanitarian agencies have repeatedly called for the civilians to be allowed to leave the city.

Those who have managed to escape are separated, with the men and older boys taken to special security screening locations.

There is a lot of suspicion in Baghdad surrounding those Fallujah residents who have been under IS control for more than two years.

"They are brainwashed by now," said one Iraqi federal police officer who would only give his initials as H.K. as he was not allowed to speak to the press. "They should be placed in a special camp."

Under siege for six months

Fallujah has been under siege for six months, with very little food or medicine entering the city.

One displaced man who gave his name as Alahin told UNHCR of the horrors of the last few months.

"Families started to suffer when (IS) closed the exit routes from the city. Families started suffering from psychological problems and some of them committed suicide. Some of them set fire to themselves and some of them drowned their children," he said. "As God is my witness, everything I say is true."

It was not possible to immediately verify any of the reports.

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