Iraqi forces have arrested more than 500 suspected members of the Deash Takfiri terrorist group among civilians fleeing the city of Fallujah.
“We have arrested 546 suspected terrorists who had fled by taking advantage of the movements of displaced families over the past two weeks,” Hadi Rzayej, police chief of Iraq’s western conflict-ridden province of Anbar in which Fallujah is located, said on Monday.
“Many of them were using fake IDs,” he noted, adding that separate screening is conducted among civilian boys and adults fleeing the area. Iraqi government forces release some after a few hours while others are to undergo more thorough interrogation.
Iraqi forces have been engaged in a major offensive to liberate Fallujah, located some 70 kilometers west of the capital, Baghdad.
The Iraqi army on Saturday opened a safe exit route for an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in the center of the Deash-held city.
Residents of Fallujah have been taking huge risks to flee the city by walking along mined roads and trying to cross the Euphrates river at any cost.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently announced that the offensive to liberate Fallujah has been slowed down due to fears for the safety of civilians being used as human shield. He also said that safe corridors have been established to allow some civilians to exit.
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued with gruesome violence ever since Daesh terrorists mounted an offensive in the country in June 2014.
The Iraqi army, backed by volunteer forces, has been engaged in extensive battles and made gains in pushing the militants out of the country’s cities and villages.