90,000 people have fled IS advance in Iraq’s Anbar

THJVN_ANBAR_jpg_2379120fSunni tribal fighters ride in a vehicle with their weapons as they guard against possible attacks from Islamic State militants, in Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

The displaced people are mainly heading to Baghdad and the IS-held city of Fallujah, said the UN.

More than 90,000 people have fled the Islamic State group’s advance in Iraq’s western Anbar province, which has set off fierce fighting in and around the provincial capital Ramadi, a United Nations humanitarian agency said Sunday.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that civilians are fleeing Ramadi as well as three nearby villages captured by the IS group a few days ago. It said humanitarian agencies have moved quickly to provide assistance, including food, water and shelter.

“Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing — food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities,” said Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.

Grande expressed concern over the safety of the displaced people, who are mainly heading to Baghdad and the IS-held city of Fallujah.

“Seeing people carrying what little they can and rushing for safety is heart-breaking,” she added.

Iraqi officials in Anbar have described Ramadi as a ghost town, with empty streets and closed shops.

Iraqi troops backed by Shiite militias and US-led airstrikes managed to dislodge the IS group from the northern city of Tikrit earlier this month.

But the troops have struggled against the militants in Anbar, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year US military intervention that ended in 2011.

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