Ramadi- Baghdad-based Colonel Steve Warren has announced that the leader of ISIS in the Iraqi city of Fallujah was killed in an air strike as part of the operation carried out by Iraqi troops to recapture the city from the terrorist group.
“We’ve killed more than 70 enemy fighters, including Maher Al-Bilawi” who is the commander of ISIS in Fallujah, said Warren, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition.
He said on Friday that over the last four days, 20 strikes in the besieged city had destroyed ISIS positions and gun emplacements.
The head of the Iraqi army operations aimed at retaking Fallujah, Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, said on Friday that the “security forces are making progress.”
“The resistance of ISIS is currently limited to carrying out car and suicide bombings, and deploying snipers on rooftops at a time when 50,000 civilians are still trapped in the city,” he said.
In a press briefing in Geneva, Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that there have been reports of a dramatic increase in the number of executions of men and older boys in Fallujah refusing to fight on behalf of extremists.
Families have told UNHCR and its protection partners harrowing tales of their escape, travelling on foot for hours at night, moving across fields and hiding in disused irrigation pipes. Others have lost their lives trying to leave the city, including women and children, said Fleming.
Hundreds of people fled the Fallujah area Friday.
“Our forces evacuated 460 people… most of them women and children,” said police Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat.
ISIS “gave us food that only animals would eat,” Umm Omar, who was accompanied by more than 10 members of her family, said.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces on May 22-23 launched an offensive to retake Fallujah, one of only two major Iraqi cities still controlled by ISIS, the other being Mosul.
According to the U.N., only around 800 people were able to escape Fallujah since then.