In Iraq, the Caliphate seems far from having weakened. Despite the fact that the U.S. army announced to the Coalition leadership that they killed an Isis a commander and at least 70 extremist fighters yesterday, the militiamen of the self-styled Islamic State are still savaging civilians who are trying to flee from Fallujah, a Sunni-majority city 65 kilometers away from Baghdad, which was conquered by the jihadists in January 2014.
After four days of siege at the hands of the Iraqi forces, the conditions of the civilians in Fallujah (over 50 thousand) are tragic, as the United Nations and humanitarian organizations such as Save the Children have reported.
Leila Jane Nassif, UNHCR representative in Iraq, and Lisa Grande, UN coordinator, said the “increasing numbers of executions” of men and teenagers who refuse to become Isis militants, whereas people who had tried to leave Fallujah were whipped, their limbs were amputated, others were killed or buried alive under the rubble of destroyed houses. Many of them are used as human shields. About 800 people have managed to escape since Monday, when the Iraqi army and the allied Shiite militias began military offensive to liberate the city and regain control.
Nassif mentioned the “heartbreaking stories” of the people who fled. “The few families that have managed to leave Fallujah have done so putting their lives at great risk.” They walked for hours at night through fields, and hid in irrigation pipes in disuse. “Many of them have lost their lives trying to leave the city, including women and children. Others were executed or flogged. A man’s leg was amputated”. While Lisa Grande reports that “food is scarce and its distribution is under strict control. They ran out of drugs and many families are forced to use non-potable water”. And the numerous explosives scattered on this territory dissuade people from escaping. The humanitarian corridors for the arrival of aid have been interrupted.
Tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped in Fallujah, “prevented from escaping by the extremist forces that hold them hostage, whereas the city is bombed by the Iraqi forces.” Prime Minister Haidar Abadi said that the militiamen will not enter Fallujah, where the majority of the population is Sunni.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the main Iraqi Shiite religious authority, has asked the government forces to prepare an offensive to reconquer Fallujah and save the civilians trapped in the city.
The paramilitary militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (Al Hashd Al Shaabi), were founded in 2014, following a fatwa of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shiite religious authority, to fight the Islamic state, which is Sunni. But in many areas of the country, which were subtracted to the ‘Caliphate’, they have been accused of having committed atrocities against the Sunni population, charged with complicity with Isis.