Iraqi forces' air strikes leave 19 dead in Fallujah

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 10:57pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 10:57pm

Iraqi government air strikes have killed 19 people, including children, in militant-held Fallujah.

The Iraqi army has been shelling Fallujah, 70km west of Baghdad, for months in a bid to drive out the Sunni militants from the group known as Islamic State.

The insurgents, backed by local Sunni tribal leaders, overran the city in January.

Ahmed al-Shami, a spokesman for the Fallujah health office, said the 19 dead on Monday and Tuesday included women and children, with 38 wounded taken to Fallujah hospital.

Residents of Fallujah and the nearby town of Garma said helicopters fired artillery and dropped three barrel bombs on Fallujah and two on Garma.

Barrel bombs are powerful weapons made from high explosives, cement and metal parts packed into oil drums and usually dropped from helicopters.

They have gained notoriety in the region because of their use in neighbouring Syria by President Bashar al-Assad's forces to flatten buildings in rebel-held areas.

The government denies indiscriminate attacks, saying it targets insurgents, but a provincial security officer has previously confirmed that barrel bombs were dropped on Fallujah.

About 560,000 people have fled Anbar province - a large area of western Iraq where Fallujah is situated - since the Islamic State takeover in January, according to the International Rescue Committee, a New York-based humanitarian organisation.

The conflict, which threatens to break up Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines, has killed almost 5,600 civilians this year, show latest United Nations figures.

Twenty-three people, nine of them policemen, were killed on Tuesday when a suicide bomber drove a car into a checkpoint at the entrance to the mostly Shi'ite Kadhimiya district of northern Baghdad.

Another 52 people were injured. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.