Reuters reports: Thousands of civilians have fled Fallujah since last week after the Iraqi military intensified shelling in a new bid to crush a five-month old Sunni uprising, killing scores of people in what residents describe as massive indiscriminate bombardment.
The mortars, artillery and what residents call “barrel bombs” rained for at least seven days on Fallujah — a city that was the nemesis of US troops a decade ago and is now the main battle ground in a war pitting the Shiite-led government against rebellious Sunni tribal chiefs and an al-Qaeda offshoot.
More than 420,000 people have already escaped the two main cities of western Anbar province, Fallujah and Ramadi, in fighting since the start of the year. Residents say the new pounding of Fallujah’s residential neighborhoods appears aimed at driving out all remaining civilians in preparation for an all-out assault to defeat armed groups once and for all.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is trying to cobble together a coalition to keep himself in office for a third term after an April 30 parliamentary election, has vowed to destroy fighters who seized parts of Anbar province last year. [Continue reading…]