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Qassem al-Ali

Iraq calls on Ramadi residents to leave city

Iraqi civilians have been trying to flee the conflict city of Ramadi [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 5 November, 2015

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Iraqi forces have called on Ramadi's residents to evacuate the city but only a few families managed to flee after Islamic State group militants blocked the exits.

Iraqi forces have thrown leaflets over Iraq's Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, calling on the residents to evacuate the city after receiving information that hundreds of families were stuck there and dozens of civilians were killed in the last four weeks as a result of air and artillery bombardment of the area.

Iraqi forces, backed by tribal fighters have been trying to liberate Ramadi from Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) control, but operations in Anbar came to a halt last week due to bad weather.

Residents tried to escape but IS militants prevented most of them from leaving Ramadi telling them that "everyone will eventually die anyway" according to a family who succeeded in escaping on foot and by swimming across the Euphrates river to where the Iraqi forces are stationed.

The head of the Anbar Operations Command, Maj. Gen Ismail al-Mahalawi, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that IS is launching a fierce resistance by intensifying their "car bomb, missile, and artillery attacks," and using civilians as human shields after forcefully preventing them from leaving the city.

"We are keen on the safety of Ramadi's citizens, particularly that hundreds of families remain inside the city, which made [bombing the area] difficult for the aircraft of the international coalition and the army, who detected IS movements in residential neighbourhoods and among civilians," Mahalawi added.

Mahalawi pointed out that IS had also planted mines and IEDs inside and around the city.

The leader of the Third Division of the Iraqi Special Operations, Maj. Gen. Sami al-A'aridi, told al-Araby that only around 60 families managed to flee the city and were taken to a tourist town in Habbaniyah. He said that they were in a bad psychological and health state.

A family who was transferred to a safe place away from Ramadi by one of al-Araby al-Jadeed's teams told the reporters that hundreds of families were still stuck in the city.

The head of the family is a 50-year-old lady who told al-Araby: "Dozens of citizens were killed as a result of artillery fire, missiles, and air raids by Iraqi forces or the international coalition and a large majority of them were buried in home gardens or public squares because people couldn't get them to a graveyard."

The family said that they walked more than 15 kilometres and then swam across the Euphrates river "despite the cold weather in the city," and asked the Iraqi forces to stop the indiscriminate shelling of Ramadi as "it only kills civilians" and IS fighters are "professionals" at protecting themselves from it.

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