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90,000 flee IS advance in Anbar

Published 19/04/2015

Iraqi anti-terrorism forces enter Ramadi from the eastern side. (AP)
Iraqi anti-terrorism forces enter Ramadi from the eastern side. (AP)

More than 90,000 people have fled the Islamic State group's advance in Iraq's western Anbar province, which has set off fierce fighting in and around the provincial capital Ramadi, a United Nations humanitarian agency said.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that civilians are fleeing Ramadi as well as three nearby villages captured by IS a few days ago.

It said humanitarian agencies have moved quickly to provide assistance, including food, water and shelter.

"Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing - food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities," said Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.

Ms Grande expressed concern over the safety of the displaced people, who are mainly heading to Baghdad and the IS-held city of Fallujah.

"Seeing people carrying what little they can and rushing for safety is heart-breaking," she added.

Iraqi officials in Anbar have described Ramadi as a ghost town, with empty streets and closed shops.

Iraqi soldiers backed by Shiite militias and US-led air strikes managed to dislodge IS from the northern city of Tikrit earlier this month, b ut the troops have struggled against the militants in Anbar, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year US military intervention that ended in 2011.

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