Fighters from ISIS have blown up houses belonging to Iraqi soldiers and authorities in Anbar province’s capital city Ramadi as Iraqi forces and Iranian backed Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces continue operations to recapture the city.
“Since mid-May when Ramadi fell into the hands of ISIS, the group’s militia have been collecting information on local authorities and identifying their homes and properties. Now, they have started blowing up the houses,” said Azal al-Fahdawi, a member of the province’s council.
"The number of displaced families has reached 150,000 and they are living in miserable conditions,” he added.
Clashes between ISIS and Iraqi forces continue on the suburbs of the city as Baghdad looks to redeem what was described by US officials as a “setback” in the war against the group.
Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s western province of Anbar, was captured by ISIS after weeks of clashes between the group a small garrison of local police and Sunni tribesmen in the city.
The central government in Baghdad did not send reinforcements to the city despite repeated pleas from the provincial administration.
Anbar is home to a Sunni majority, raising concerns due to the involvement of Shiite militia in fighting to re-capture the city.
Shiite militias who entered the province of Tikrit in March were videoed looting homes of Sunni residents before torching them in the town of al-Dour.
Claims of Shiite militias leading lynch mobs in Tikrit also emerged, one such incident being witnessed by Reuters which reported that two militia officials “took out knives and repeatedly stabbed [a] man in the neck and slit his throat.”
Coming just weeks after a successful campaign to liberate Tikrit, the loss of Ramadi is a serious setback to the Iraqi government, as the city lies just 120 kilometers east of the nation’s capital of Baghdad.
Over 500 people were killed in the battle for the city as 40,000 civilians, a third of the city’s population, are camped on the outskirts of Baghdad, denied refuge within the city.
The United Nations has expressed concern over the worsening humanitarian situation on the “Bzebiz” bridge separating the refugees from the city.
“People are telling us that they have been walking for three or four days in temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius to get to safety. They are exhausted and dehydrated.”
“Many are sleeping out in the open. Their suffering is unimaginable,” said Salah Noori, head of programs at the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).