Fallujah standoff - 13 000 families flee

2014-01-08 20:50
Gunmen gather in a street as they brandish weapons, chant slogans against Iraq's Shi’ite-led government and demand that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah. (AP Photo)

Gunmen gather in a street as they brandish weapons, chant slogans against Iraq's Shi’ite-led government and demand that the Iraqi army not try to enter the city in Fallujah. (AP Photo)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Fallujah - More than 13 000 families have fled Fallujah, NGOs said on Wednesday, warning of a "critical" humanitarian situation as masked gunmen locked in a days-long stand-off with Iraqi troops hold the city.

And though traffic police returned to its streets, some shops reopened and more cars could be seen, Fallujah was still hit by clashes and shelling, after an Al-Qaeda-linked group urged Sunnis to keep fighting the Shiite-led government.

Fallujah and parts of nearby Ramadi, both in the western province of Anbar which borders Syria, have been outside government hands for days - the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the 2003 US-led invasion.

On Wednesday, the Iraqi Red Crescent said it had provided humanitarian assistance to more than 8 000 families across Anbar but added that upwards of 13 000 had fled and were living with relatives, or in schools or other public buildings.

"There is a critical humanitarian situation in Anbar province which is likely to worsen as operations continue," Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special envoy to Iraq, said in a statement.

"The situation in Fallujah is particularly concerning as existing stocks of food, water and life-saving medicines begin to run out."

Earlier on Wednesday, uniformed traffic police, whose sole responsibility is directing vehicles and controlling intersections, were back on the streets in several parts of central Fallujah, an AFP journalist reported.

They were apparently on duty with the blessing of the gunmen, whose allegiance was not immediately clear.

The gunmen were deployed in areas around the edge of Fallujah, at the entrances of neighbourhoods, and on bridges - including one from which the bodies of American contractors were infamously hung in 2004, prompting the first of two US assaults that year.

Some shops in the city reopened, and light traffic returned to the streets. But the city still faces the threat of an assault by soldiers deployed nearby.

Also on Wednesday, two areas of Fallujah saw brief clashes and shelling, witnesses said, but it was not immediately clear who was involved in the fighting.

More than 250 killed

The al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been active in Fallujah, but so have anti-government tribes.

The security forces have meanwhile recruited their own tribal allies in the fighting that has raged in Anbar province for more than a week and killed more than 250 people.

Near the provincial capital Ramadi, meanwhile, soldiers backed by helicopters battled gunmen in the Khaldiyah area, a police captain said.

On Tuesday, ISIL spokesperson Abu Mohammed al-Adnani urged Iraqi Sunnis to continue battling government forces.

"Do not lay the weapon down, because if you put it down this time, the [Shi'ites] will enslave you and you will not rise again," Adnani said in a recording.

A military spokesperson has said an assault on Fallujah was on hold for fear of civilian casualties.

Attacking the Sunni-majority city would be a significant test for Iraqi security forces, who have yet to undertake such a major operation without the backing of US troops, who withdrew in December 2011.

It would also be extremely sensitive politically, as it would inflame already high tensions between the Sunni Arab minority and the government.

Both Ramadi and Fallujah were insurgent strongholds in the years after 2003, and Fallujah was the target of two major assaults in which US forces saw some of their heaviest fighting since the Vietnam War.

They eventually wrested back control of Anbar with the support of Sunni tribesmen who formed the Sahwa (Awakening) militias, which allied with US troops against al-Qaeda from late 2006.

But Sunni militants have regained strength, bolstered by the war in neighbouring Syria and widespread Sunni Arab anger with the federal government.

Fighting erupted near Ramadi on 30 December, when security forces cleared a year-old Sunni protest camp.

The violence spread to Fallujah, and militants moved in and seized the city and parts of Ramadi after security forces withdrew.

Unrest elsewhere in Iraq on Wednesday killed 10 people, including six police, officials said.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  iraq
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Fashion
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Cape Town - 16:15 PM
    Road name: Wet Weather
    RAIN across the greater Cape Town area - drive with care and use headlights - Allow Extra Tavel Time
  • Friday Kuils River - 09:28 AM
    Road name: Polkadraai Road Eastbound
    ROADWORKS between the R102 Van Riebeeck Road and the R310 Baden Powell Drive exit - DELAYS
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300

Keep it together Text. Email. Social. With all the different ways to...

From R2499.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The day may have a fluctuating sensitive energy to begin with, but later when the Moon moves into dramatic and creative Leo you...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.