Global Independent Analytics

Residents trapped in 'sealed casket' IS stronghold as Iraqi forces close in

Sunni people are trying to survive in the ISIS-occupied city

In his article for Reuters Ahmed Rasheed reports: terrorists of ISIS are authoritatively holding citizens of Ramadi as hostages in order to repel Iraqi forces which are enclosing the city.

Hardline group’s supplies have been blocked by Iraqi army in November: the city of Ramadi was encircled in order not to let combatants be fortified. However, apart from militants, the city also holds in thousands of regular citizens who have become prisoners of the situation. Several citizens who managed to flee the city were interviewed and unanimously responded that the conditions inside the city have significantly worsened because ISIS fighters have become more aggressive, suspicious and violent. They are prohibiting people from leaving their houses and catching those who had left anyway, basically forming a locked fortress.

The city of Ramadi, located at the west region of Baghdad, was the primary conquest achieved by ISIS for over a year. It fell to Islamic State in May and commemorated biggest blow to Iraqi government which has already failed to defeat most of the Northern Iraq. In case their reign in the city is overthrown, such outcome would be highly beneficial for the Iraqi government and respectively for its allies, the U.S. and Iran.

Strict rules that are being implemented by Islamic State very likely might be caused by anxiety among Sunni Muslims several of whom helped American army when defeating the ISIS’ forerunner about ten years ago. Now Ramadi is divided into smaller districts each of which is isolated from others to prevent informants from communicating with security forces. However, since the stricter control was enforced, even more people have been caught passing information to the security.

The city is patrolled by motorcycle guards whose aim is to prevent citizens from using their mobile phones. The watchmen also control high and empty buildings. “They (militants) are strangling us more and more. They treat us like prisoners,” said Abu Ahmed, speaking from the roof of his house to receive a weak phone signal with a cardboard box over his head so he would not be seen by Islamic State patrols. I have to go now. I’m hearing Daesh motorcycles. I could lose my head if…” said Abu Ahmed said, ending the call mid-sentence” reports Rasheed.

Since the beginning of the besiegement, food supplies have decreased drastically. Citizens report that other than rotten tomatoes and stale bread they have nothing more to eat. Some even are thinking that if the siege continues, they would be forced to kill domestic animals to survive.  Lack of fuel pushes people to burn scraps of wood and saw down trees for families to cook and stay warm. According to a citizen who escaped the city Sunday, ISIS’ members are treating people worse than animals or slaves. Estimated 1,200-1,700 families are now trapped inside the city.

The government urged citizens to leave the city but ISIS’ combatants are not going to let it happen, report some residents. Those who were trying to escape were caught, and militant leaders threatened to execute head of the family as a warning to others. For some time some citizens managed to get away through a route controlled by security forces, but later snipers were positioned to control this area and to shoot anyone who tries to flee.

“Daesh are mainly using motorcycles in their movements to avoid air strikes and have deployed suicide attackers in various parts of Ramadi. They look in real tension,” Rasheed gives a quote of Ahmad al-Assafi, who paid $1,000 to a taxi driver who has helped him to escape.

However, Iraqi army denies that there are any hostages in the city of Ramadi: they claim that families that are trapped in the city are those who support ISIS. “Several residents said that although they longed to be rid of Islamic State, they feared they would be accused of supporting the militants if the city is recaptured. I wish that could happen soon to get rid of the Daesh nightmare, but what could happen afterwards could be worse," said Omar, a father of two daughters. "We will be the scapegoat" concludes Rasheed.

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