Ten Iraqi civilians have died of hunger in the town of Haditha in the besieged western province of Anbar, Sabah Karhout, the leader of Anbar's provincial council said on March 18.
Karhout blamed Iraq's Trade Ministry for the deaths, saying that no humanitarian aid has reached Haditha even though Iraqi security forces have liberated the highway to the township of Baghdadi and the Ayn Al-Asad military base, RFE/RL's correspondent in Iraq reported.
Iraqi security forces have liberated most of the town of Haditha, which is about 150 miles northwest of Baghdad, although the southwestern parts of the town remain under the control of Islamic State (IS) militants.
The IraqAkhbar.com news site cited the head of Haditha district, Abdul-Hakim al-Jughaifi, as saying that four women and four children were among those who had died in Haditha in the past week.
Al-Jughaifi added that civilians in Haditha, Nahiya, and Baghdadi had begun to suffer episodes of fainting and loss of consciousness, because they lacked access to the necessary foodstuffs.
The head of the Haditha district said that it was the duty of the Trade Ministry to deliver food aid to prevent civilians dying from hunger.
The accounts of the starvation deaths in Haditha came amid reports that Iraq's Trade Ministry, which is in charge of operating a public food distribution program, is set to open an air bridge and a ground route to transfer aid to Haditha and Baghdadi in Anbar Province.
According to Al Sumaria news, Trade Minister Malas Mohammed Al-Kasnazani, said on March 18 that the delivery of the aid would be in coordination with the military and security forces.
The U.S.-led coalition targeted Islamic State militants around Haditha in two air strikes on March 15-16. The strikes struck two Islamic State tactical units and destroyed two of the militants' fighting positions, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk