Fears of ‘human tragedy’ as Islamic State militants besiege new town in Iraq

By Nourideen Hameed

Azzaman, February 6, 2015

Islamic State militants have cut all roads leading to al-Haqlawiya, preventing the flow of goods and people from and to the picturesque and agricultural town on the Euphrates River, an official source said.

The source, representing the provincial council of the Province of Anbar, said the jihadist group has even spread its control over the desert tracks through which food and other essential supplies were ferried to the town.

“The control by the terrorist organization of Da’esh of parts of the province has resulted in the shutting of land and desert tracks through which supplies have been ferried (to Haqlawiya),” the official said. “The siege will lead to a massive human tragedy and children will be its main victims.”

Da’esh is the local appellation for Islamic State or ISIS.

Haqlawiya is home to nearly 50,000 people and is about 70 kilometers from Ramadi, the provincial center of Anbar. It was a bastion of resistance to U.S. occupation troops, who were forced to withdraw from the town in 2008.

Islamic State militants have occupied most of Anbar, Iraq’s largest province in area, including many neighborhoods of Ramadi itself.

The official, who refused to be named for security reasons, said the militants have not entered Haqlawiya yet but their encircling of the town will certainly undermine the morale of defenders making it easy for the jihadist to take it over.

The adverse impact of Islamic State’s besiege of the city are already felt, the official said.

He said prices of basic food supplies have skyrocketed several folds and some staples were in short supply.

“Baby formula has risen six folds and a 25-kilogram sack of flour is sold at 150,000 dinars,” he said. The sum is equal to half the salary of low-income Iraqis.

He said the whole Province of Anbar currently suffered from food and fuel shortages, while tens of thousands of displaced people within provincial borders were getting little or no assistance.