Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Islamic State militants are holding 65000 civilians inside their last two remaining havens in western Anbar, a human rights monitor said as military operations managed to reclaim a third bastion.
Those are trapped inside the cities of al-Qaim and Rawa, and are prevented from leaving by mobile militant patrols, according to the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights. It predicted thousands of civilians to flee to Baghdad and security-held areas in Anbar, voicing fears that the militants were possibly going to use the civilians as hina shields.
Iraqi army forces on Thursday completely took over the town of Annah, just two days after operations launched to free western Anbar from IS.
Anbar’s western towns of Annah, Qaim and Rawa have been held by the extremist group since 2014, when it occupied one third of Iraq to proclaim a self-styled Islamic “Caliphate”. Iraqi troops were able to return life back to normal in the biggest cities of Anbar including Fallujah, Ramadi and others after recapturing them in 2015 and 2016.
Iraqi government and paramilitary forces are currently in parallel operations to retake Kirkuk’s Hawija. They recently recaptured Salahuddin’s town of Shirqat as part of the offensive.