The humanitarian situation in the besieged Iraqi township of Baghdadi in Anbar province is severe, with increasing shortages of food and medical supplies, an RFE/RL correspondent in Iraq has reported.
Militants from the Islamic State group overran Baghdadi, which is about 8 kilometers from the Ayn Al-Asad air base where U.S. marines are training Iraqi troops, on February 13. The town had been one of the few remaining towns in Anbar province that was still under the control of the Iraqi Army.
Military operations continued in the town on February 16, according to RFE/RL's correspondent, after Islamic State militants redeployed and took control of the center of Baghdadi. The news came after reports on February 14 that Iraqi Army forces had deployed armored personnel carriers, tanks, and a combat regiment from the Ayn Al-Asad air base to counter Islamic State gunmen.
Reports filtering through from the town on February 16 said that civilians had no access to water, food, or baby milk. Seven civilians who had been wounded in clashes between Islamic State gunmen and Iraqi security forces have died as a result of the lack of medical facilities in Baghdadi. Meanwhile, 260 more civilians are in a critical condition, the correspondent said.
Fears Of A 'Massacre'
A tribal elder based in Baghdadi told pan-Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat on February 14 that the majority of the town's 50,000 residents had been internally displaced because of the clashes. Sheikh Ma'di Al-Samarmad said that the Baghdadi families fleeing the fighting were looking for a way out of town, and that Islamic State militants had "deployed snipers on the top of buildings and they are shooting everyone trying to get out."
Al-Samarmad warned of a possible "massacre" of Baghdadi residents unless help arrived.
Baghdadi's local council called on February 16 for additional security forces to be dispatched to help liberate the residential district in Baghdadi where 2,500 families of the city's administrative leaders and security forces reside.
A source in the Anbar provincial council said that Islamic State gunmen have executed 26 Baghdadi residents. The residents had been abducted on February 14 and the executions took place in Rawa, the source said.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk