Some civilians in Fallujah have reportedly turned to suicide and killing their own children amid the Iraqi military’s offensive to retake the city from brutal Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists who are allegedly using “hundreds” of residents as “human shields.”
There were about 20,000 children among an estimated 40,0000 to 50,0000 civilians who remained trapped in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah as of the end of May, facing food, water, and medicine shortages as well as extreme violence and forced recruitment by ISIS jihadists who prevented them from leaving, the United Nations has reported.
“Aid agencies fear that many of the 50,000 people who have endured two years of starvation and terror under the jihadists will be driven to suicide as Islamic State turns them into human shields against the Iraqi forces pushing into the city,” reports the Times.
According to the UN, ISIS jihadists inside Fallujah were using “several hundred families” as “human shields” as they engaged in deadly battles with Iraqi troops backed by the U.S. military and Iran-allied Shiite militias.
In interviews with the UN Refugee Agency, also known as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), fleeing residents spoke about civilians committing atrocities against themselves and their family members in Fallujah, located about 35 miles west of Baghdad, the Times reports.
Iraqi authorities recently told the United Nations that an estimated 3,700 Iraqis (624 families) have fled since the Iraqi offensive to the retake city began on May 22.
“Families started to suffer when ISIS (Islamic State) closed the exit routes from the city. Families started suffering from psychological problems and some of them committed suicide,” a woman identified only as Alahin reportedly told a UN worker at a refugee camp.
“Some of them set fire to themselves. I swear to God some of them drowned their children. Some of them threw their kids on to the streets and left them there on their own because they didn’t have any food,” she added.
The UN reportedly acknowledged that it could not independently verify the reports but noted that it was aware of the “severe psychological trauma” suffered by some Fallujah residents.
“Some were so desperate they abandoned children they couldn’t care for. Some people have been attempting to commit suicide as they see no future and no way out,” reportedly said Caroline Gluck of UNHCR. “Do you stay and face death or leave and face death? It’s a no-win situation.”
“We were told of two instances of women throwing themselves and their children into the Euphrates,” added Christopher Wilcke, the Iraq researcher of the NGO Human Rights Watch “We received video footage of three bodies — one adult, two children — being recovered from some river. We showed it to people and they confirmed it was the suicide case.”
The human rights group pointed out that it recorded the first Fallujah-linked suicides in March.
The UN recently reported:
Conditions for those trapped in the city are dire. UNHCR previously noted reports of several starvation-related deaths amid food shortages. Families have had to rely on unsafe water sources, including drainage water from irrigation canals. Health facilities and medications are unavailable…
Inside Falluja, there have been reports of a dramatic increase in the number of executions of men and older boys for refusing to fight on behalf of ISIL. Other reports say a number of people attempting to leave have been executed or whipped, and one man’s leg was reportedly amputated. In addition, many people are reported to have been killed or buried alive under the rubble of their homes in the course of ongoing military operations.
The Times quoted witnesses as saying that ISIS is prohibiting people from leaving and executing those who have tried to flee.
“We don’t have drinking water, we drink directly from the river, it’s not clean at all,” reportedly declared Abu Hamid al-Dulaimi, a Fallujah resident. “There is no flour in the market, we are buying one kilo of wheat and using ancient tools to pound it to make bread. We make fire by burning plastic as there is no cooking gas, we just live like centuries ago.”
“ISIS is forcing boys as young as 12 and 13 into the fight,” added an unnamed Iraqi officer.
Although it has met tough resistance from ISIS, the Iraqi military offensive is making headway in recapturing the city, several news outlets reported Sunday.
Lt. Gen. Abdel Wahab al-Saadi, an Iraqi military commander, indicated that Iraqi special forces are poised to enter the main city, the Associated Press (AP) reported Sunday.