Four people have drowned and nine others gone missing while attempting to flee the Daesh-held city of Fallujah in Iraq through the Euphrates River.
Iraqi medics and officials said the bodies of two children, a woman and a man were recovered and transported to the city of Amiriyah Fallujah, some 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Fallujah, on Sunday.
The Anbar provincial council’s head, Shakir al-Essawi, said people are using objects that can float on water to help them get across the river.
“They are using empty refrigerators, wooden cupboards and kerosene barrels as makeshift boats to cross the river,” he said. “It’s totally unsafe and this is why innocent people are drowning.”
Fallujah was overrun by Daesh in January 2014, and civilians have attempted to flee the city in the face of the terrorist group’s atrocities ever since. More recently, however, people have been trying to flee en masse as an Iraqi security operation has been launched to liberate the city.
Military and volunteer forces have encircled Fallujah and have set up safe corridors for the civilians to get out before forces enter the city. Reports said Monday that the city’s southern edge has been secured.
“We are now at the gates of Fallujah,” Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi military commander who heads the Popular Mobilization Committee, told a news conference on Sunday.
However, the Daesh terrorists, who are using the civilians as human shields, have been preventing people from leaving Fallujah, sometimes even shooting departing individuals to death.
Essawi said more than a thousand families have nevertheless managed to cross the Euphrates — which is about 250 to 300 meters wide at the crossing point — so far.
Over the past few days, some of those trying to reach the river have been shot dead by Daesh snipers, or lost their lives in the explosion of bombs planted by the terrorist group along the roads, Jassim Alwan, a police captain in Amiriyah Fallujah, said.