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Iraqi counterterrorism forces fix their armored vehicles and load their weapons during a break in fighting outside Fallujah, Iraq, May 31, 2016.

Iraqi counterterrorism forces fix their armored vehicles and load their weapons during a break in fighting outside Fallujah, Iraq, May 31, 2016.

From Washington, this is VOA News.

I’m Sarah Williams reporting.

Civilian casualties are beginning to mount as the battle for the Islamic State-held city of Fallujah intensifies.

Iraqi forces have launched an offensive aimed at retaking the city.

The UN refugee agency has received reports of civilians being killed in heavy shelling or buried alive under the rubble of their homes.

Some 625 families have managed to escape the fighting since last week.

Iraqi forces are separating out and screening the men, out of concern about the loyalties of those who are leaving the city after living under IS rule for more than two years.

A report released by the Global Slavery Index on Tuesday says more than 45-million people are subject to some form of modern slavery.

India and Uzbekistan are among the countries with both the highest absolute number of slaves and the highest proportion of slaves to their population. Citizens of Uzbekistan are subject to state-sanctioned forced labor picking cotton.

North Korea also makes the list for highest proportion of slaves among the population for forced labor in prisons as well as commercial sexual exploitation and forced marriage of women in neighboring states.

Andrew Forrest is chairman of the Walk Free Foundation:

"It's where a person cannot leave their place of existence. Either their passport is taken or there's a threat of violence against them or a member of their family so they're stuck there and probably worse, they're treated akin to a farm animal."

The study found that Qatar, Singapore, Kuwait, Brunei, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Japan, and South Korea are among the nations whose governments have taken relatively little action against modern slavery.

This is VOA News.

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