World Bulletin / News Desk
A Sunni Iraqi MP claimed on Sunday that government forces are using barrel bombs in shelling the flashpoint city of Fallujah.
"The military operation in Fallujah has caused severe losses among civilians and army forces alike," MP Leqaa Wardi told Anadolu Agency.
She went on to allege that during the past two days, army shelling has intensified on the city, in which the army used internationally-banned barrel bombs, leaving "large numbers" of civilian casualties.
Sheikh Mohamed al-Bagari, a spokesman for anti-government Sunni tribes in Fallujah, said that thousands of residents have fled the violence-wracked city following barrel bomb shelling on their homes in several districts.
In late April, another local chieftain has said the Iraqi air force used barrel bombs in an indiscriminate shelling on Fallujah's Karmah district.
The Iraqi army has yet to comment on the allegations.
The use of explosive-laden barrels, which are much cheaper than missiles but inflict similar levels of destruction, have been widely reported in Syria, where regime forces are said to have used them against opposition-held areas.
According to Syrian opposition groups, the barrel bombs – usually filled with TNT, oil and metal shrapnel – have killed hundreds of people, especially in the countryside outside Damascus and Aleppo.
Since last December, the Iraqi army has waged a major offensive in the Sunni-majority Anbar province with the stated aim of flushing rebels – who Baghdad claims are linked to Al-Qaeda – out of the key cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
Many local Sunni tribes opposed to Iraq's Shiite-dominated government, meanwhile, continue to voice anger over the operation's mounting civilian death toll.
Since the offensive began, hundreds have been killed and injured in Fallujah and Ramadi, according to government officials.
16 suspected Al Qaeda members arrested for Kirkuk murders
Sixteen suspected Al-Qaeda members have been arrested in connection with the kidnapping and killing of 15 drivers months ago on a road linking the north-central province of Kirkuk with the northeastern province of Sulaymaniyah, a senior Iraqi official said.
"We promised the families of the victims to arrest the culprits," Kirkuk Governor Necmettin Kerim told a press conference on Sunday.
He said 15 suspected perpetrators came from the eastern province of Diyala, while the 16th suspect came from another province he did not name.
Kerim added that Al-Qaeda had murdered the drivers, 10 of whose remains were found only on Saturday, in order to send fear down the hearts of the residents of Kirkuk.
"The martyrs are the victims of blind terrorism," Kerim said. "We'll do our best to compensate their families," he added.
Rebels were reported to have kidnapped several drivers on the Kirkuk-Sulaymaniyah road over the past year. The bodies of five drivers were found two months ago, while the remains of other drivers were found at a farm in northeastern Kirkuk on Saturday.
Four suspects had already been arrested in connection with the killings.Last Mod: 12 Mayıs 2014, 11:19