The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) says members of the Takfiri Daesh militant group have laid siege to a town in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, as army soldiers, backed by allied fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, are engaged in a multi-pronged operation to retake the last remaining militant bastions in the country.
The UN agency, in a statement released on Wednesday, announced that the Takfiris have taken about 2,500 families, equivalent to 10,000 individuals, hostage in Rawah, located about 300 kilometers (186 miles) northwest of the capital Baghdad, to block the progress of Iraqi forces.
The OHCHR also appealed to the Iraqi government and security forces involved in the Rawah liberation operation to intensify humanitarian efforts and open safe exit routes for civilians to frustrate terrorist schemes aimed at using ordinary people as human shields.
Late last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally ordered the launch of operations to purge the towns of Rawah and Qa’im from Daesh terrorists.
Abadi visited the newly-liberated town of Qa'im and the nearby Husaybah border crossing in far western Iraq on Sunday, and raised the Iraqi flag at the border crossing.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) stated that army soldiers and fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, have launched a joint offensive to retake the Rumana subdistrict from Daesh terrorists.
Separately, Hashd al-Sha’abi bomb disposal units have cleared 20 booby-trapped houses in addition to a power plant in Qa'im, located nearly 400 km northwest of Baghdad near the Syrian border, days after government troops and their allies recaptured it from Daesh extremists.
The pro-government volunteer fighters continue to comb the area for improvised explosive devices and mine left by the terrorists in order to facilitate the return of internally displaced persons.