A United Nation official says up to 90,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah, a stronghold of the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.
In a telephone interview with Reuters on Wednesday, Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Lise Grande, released the figure, up from a previous estimate of 50,000.
“We have underestimated how many civilians are in Fallujah,” Grande said, adding, “People who are coming out are giving us the strong impression that we could be talking about maybe 80,000 to 90,000 civilians that are inside.”
She further warned that if Fallujah is not liberated from the grip of Daesh “quickly,” those holed up there could face a “harrowing situation” as the city has been under siege for about six months, with no supplies getting in.
Daesh overran Fallujah in the western Anbar province in January 2014, six month before the terror group proceeded with its offensive, taking more areas in Iraq.
On May 23, the Iraqi military started a large-scale push to drive out the militants from Fallujah, located nearly 70 kilometers west of the capital, Baghdad.
Elsewhere in her remarks, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq also said that over 20,000 people have managed to flee Fallujah in extremely difficult conditions.
“A number of them unfortunately didn’t make it. We know that more than 10 people have drowned when they tried to cross the river,” she said, referring to cases with families having lost their children while fleeing the embattled city.
Grande further made an urgent call for further funds to help Iraqi people, adding that just 30 percent of the UN’s USD 860 million appeal has been met so far.
Gruesome violence has plagued the northern and western parts of Iraq ever since Daesh launched an offensive in the Arab state two years ago.
The Iraqi military and volunteer fighters are engaged in joint military operations to win back militant-held regions.