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Iraqi Force declares Fallujah “fully liberated” from ISIL

Kurdish commanders have warned against allowing Shi’ite militias participate in the offensive in the predominantly Sunni area

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ISIS in Iraq (Source: Reuters)
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  • Fallujah has been liberated from Islamic State fighters by Iraqi forces
  • Backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and a strong contingent of Shi’ite militias, Iraqi forces fought fiercely for weeks to oust the extremist fighters 
  • Many of the displaced are women and children

State of Fallujah has been liberated from Islamic State fighters by Iraqi forces, said the senior Iraqi officials. It took a month long military offensive to seize control over the state.

Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said on Sunday, June 26, Fallujah is now “fully liberated” after Iraqi forces took control of the Julan neighborhood, the last area of the city still held by IS.

State of Fallujah liberated. Image Source: Reuters

The destruction of the city is extensive.

Backed by US-led coalition airstrikes and a strong contingent of Shi’ite militias, Iraqi forces fought fiercely for weeks to oust the extremist fighters.  There are no clear reports of how many IS militants and how many Iraqi security forces died or were wounded in the battle for the city.

Tens of thousands need aid

Afraid of dying in the crossfire, 85,000 people have flooded out of the city and surrounding areas, overwhelming humanitarian agencies and Iraqi government efforts to help them.  Many of the displaced are without adequate shelter, living under searing summer temperatures of 45 degrees or higher and punishing sandstorms.

“With every day that passes in the camps, the conditions for some of the most vulnerable keep deteriorating,” warned NRC’s Iraq Country Director Nasr Muflahi.

People in Iraq need aid (Source: Reuters)
People in Iraq need aid (Source: Reuters)

The director of a health center in Amariyat al-Fallujah, where many of the displaced ran to, warned of the lack of water and sanitation.

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“We have too many people, with very few latrines, and there are no more spaces in the camps.  Every five meters you find a family,” said director Ahmed Basel. “If this crisis is not tackled we will soon see diseases spreading.”

Situation unstable

But despite the dire conditions in the camps, Muflahi cautioned against having civilians return to their homes too soon.

“We just do not know which areas are safe and which aren’t; we need a thorough demining of civilian areas and safety assessments,” he said in a statement released Sunday.

Many of the displaced are women and children.  All males over the age of 14 were separated from their families upon leaving Fallujah to undergo security screening to make sure they were not IS members.  Those released are given special badges to identify them.  The screening procedure is supposed to be conducted solely by Iraqi Security Forces.

Unstable situation (Source: Reuters)
Unstable situation (Source: Reuters)

But the UNHCR said Sunday, June 26, that roughly 850 men and boys from the traditionally Sunni city have been held since June 3 by paramilitary groups, a term indicating Shi’ite militia forces.

“Interviews with families confirmed reports indicating that almost all families are missing multiple family members,” UNHCR said.

Many analysts have warned of the risks of sectarian violence by the Shi’ite militias upon Fallujah’s Sunni population.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Friday, June 24, had already declared victory over the IS militants.  “Daesh will be defeated,” he announced, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Mosul next

The next step, Abadi said, would be to retake Mosul.

For several weeks, U.S. intelligence officials have described the IS group as being “at its weakest point since its rapid expansion.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said during a recent news conference the group is “under more pressure than ever” and that IS has been losing it key leaders.

But Iraqi Kurdish military commanders warn that Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, will be a much tougher fight that will require a political-military agreement between all the parties involved.  Kurdish commanders, for example, have warned against allowing Shi’ite militias participate in the offensive in the predominantly Sunni area.

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Humanitarian agencies are already worried of the possibility of having some 600,000 Mosul-area civilians displaced, a disaster many times the size of the current desperate situation outside Fallujah.

Displaced people (Source: Reuters)
Displaced people (Source: Reuters)

The UNHCR is already working to build a camp to house some 6,000 future displaced on land donated by the Governor of Irbil.  But it is a drop in the bucket, and nearby camps of those fleeing the ongoing fighting outside Mosul are already full.

The UNHCR had asked for $584 million to help 3.3 million people displaced since 2014 by war against Islamic State, out of which only 21% was funded. (VOA)

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  • Aparna Gupta

    It is a wonderful achievement amid of the Civil war which seems never ending.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Great job by the Kurdish police!

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Australian government to find humane solutions for refugees in Manus Island

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FILE - An undated image released Nov. 13, 2017, shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. (Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via Reuters)
FILE - An undated image released Nov. 13, 2017, shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. (Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via Reuters). VOA

The U.N. refugee agency is calling on the Australian government to find humane solutions for hundreds of refugees it has abandoned in a precarious situation on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

UNHCR accuses the Australian government of shirking its responsibilities to care for and protect some 800 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

It says the situation has become more precarious for the refugees since the government closed its so-called offshore processing facility at the end of October. Over the past four weeks, it notes, refugees who were moved to three new accommodation sites have been attacked several times. The worst case involved three people armed with machetes and an axe.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, says local hostility and resentment against the refugees is high and growing. She told VOA the Australian authorities must resolve this critical situation.

“We are talking here about people who have suffered extreme trauma and now are feeling so insecure in these places where they are staying. There are many victims of torture. People who have been deeply traumatized have been detained, having no idea what is going to happen next to them. I think this mental issue, this psychological issue is a major one,” Pouilly said.

A recent medical report commissioned by UNHCR finds the cumulative effect of uncertainty about their future is causing a deterioration in the mental and physical health of the refugees.

It warns cessation of services, substandard living and hygiene conditions and inadequate medical care are increasing violence and self-harm among the refugees. (VOA)