Islamist extremists in Iraq are shooting and killing civilians as they attempt to flee the city of Fallujah, a rights group says.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said the civilians are hoping to escape from fighting between Islamic State militants and Iraqi government forces.
The council said its information came from families that were in contact with the NRC.
“Our biggest fears are now tragically confirmed with civilians being directly targeted while trying to flee to safety,” said the group’s director in Iraq, Nasr Muflahi. “This is the worst that we feared would happen to innocent men, women and children who have had to leave everything behind in order to save their lives.”
Fallujah has been under Islamic State control since 2014. Iraqi forces have been battling against the militants for several weeks in an effort to retake the city.
The latest offensive has led to Iraqi forces surrounding the city on three sides. The only area not yet captured is along the western bank of the Euphrates River.
The Norwegian Refugee Council estimates about 3,000 families escaped Fallujah during the early days of the military offensive, which began on May 21. But since then, the group said, only a few families have been able to flee.
United Nations officials estimate that about 50,000 civilians are trapped in Fallujah. Some people have tried to cross the 300 meter-wide Euphrates in an effort to escape. But the U.N. said several people, including children, drowned while crossing the river.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Joshua Fatzick reported on this story for VOANews.com. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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bank – n. the land on the side of a river or lake