Iraqi defense: Hundreds of militants arrested in Fallujah

Iraqi-defense-Hundreds-of-militants-arrested-in-Fallujah.   FALLUJAH, Iraq,  More than 450 militants of the Islamic State trying to flee Fallujah were arrested as the Iraqi army neared the city from different fronts, the Iraq defense ministry reported Sunday.

Iraqi government forces supported by the Popular Mobilisation units engage in combat northwest of Fallujah, during an operation to regain control of the area from the Islamic State group on June 10, 2016. Photo by Abbas Mohammed/UPI | License Photo

The arrests came as the army has secured the first “relatively safe” exit route for civilians trying to to flee the militant group, also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL.

“The Iraqi security forces have the names and numbers of ISIS militants and they managed to arrest those who have tried to escape Fallujah with the refugees,” said Nassir Noori, a spokesperson for the ministry of defense, adding he expects more arrests.

But the arrests come after Anbar governor Suhaib al-Rawi accused members of the Shiite militia of arresting and imprisoning escaping prisoners.

“We don’t still know the fate of many people,” al-Rawi told Rudaw.

The governor alleged in one massacre, 17 people were killed by militiamen backing Iraqi troops in the fight.

“Civilians have nothing to do with Isis and in fact they are waiting to be rid of these criminal gangsters,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Joint Military Command, said an exit route was opened southwest of the city.

“There were exit routes previously, but this is the first to be completely secure and it’s relatively safe,” media outlets quoted Rasool as saying on Sunday.

About 4,000 Fallujah residents have fled the city in 24 hours using Iraqi army’s safe corridor, according to a Norwegian Refugee Council on Sunday.

Up to 50,000 civilians were feared trapped in the city, the NRC said.

“Families are calling for help. We just want to leave the city, we just want to leave it,” Um Ahmed told NRC in a rare phone conversation late last month from inside the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Residents were walking along mined roads and trying to cross the Euphrates River.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently announced efforts to liberate Fallujah were slowed out of concern of safety for the civilians.

Also Sunday, Iraqi troops retook a village south of Mosul, which has been under the control of the terrorists since the summer of 2014.

By Allen Cone