IS militants 'using Fallujah residents as human shields'

IS militants 'using Fallujah residents as human shields'
The Islamic State group in Fallujah could be using hundreds of the city's families as human shields, after concentrating them in the city centre, the UN warned on Tuesday.
2 min read
01 June, 2016
Only a fraction of Fallujah's residents have been able to flee the city [AFP]

The Islamic State group could be using 300-400 Iraqi families as human shields in the battleground city of Fallujah, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.

UN officials have received "credible reports that families are being concentrated into the centre of the city by Daesh and they are not allowed to leave these concentration points," said UN deputy representative to Iraq Lise Grande, using an Arabic acronym for the IS group.

"That would suggest that Daesh could be using them or may intend to use them as some kind of human shield," she told reporters.

"They are at extreme risk if there is a military confrontation."

Iraqi forces launched an offensive a week ago to recapture Fallujah, which became an IS group stronghold after its fighters seized the city in January 2014.

The United Nations has raised concerns with the Iraqi government, which has slowed down the pace of its operation to try to protect the trapped families.

The government is "fully aware" of the need to protect civilians during the assault, Grande said.

"The operation is moving more slowly than it might otherwise," she added.

Only 5,000 civilians of the 50,000 trapped in the city have managed to escape, many of whom walked for hours and came under fire as they fled, Grande said.

Yezidis rescued

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On Monday, Iraqi forces rescued two Yazidi women who had been captured and brought to Fallujah as slaves by the militant group.

Vian Dakhil, a Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament confirmed the rescue of the two women and thanked Iraqi forces for their efforts in liberating them.

Over 5,000 Yazidi women and girls were captured and enslaved by IS in June 2014, when the group overran the Yazidi heartland of Sinjar, northwest Iraq.

The Yazidis have been subjected to unspeakable forms of sexual violence and slavery according to survivors who have managed to escape IS captivity. 

Fallujah and Mosul - the capital of the northern province of Nineveh - are the last two major cities the IS group holds in Iraq.