World Bulletin/News Desk
The Iraqi government on Tuesday denied the use of barrel bombs by the Iraqi army in its ongoing military operation in the flashpoint city of Fallujah, where government forces are fighting rebels who Baghdad claims are linked to Al-Qaeda.
"Our forces refuse the use of unguided bombs, and there is no need to use such bombs." Ali al-Moussawi, top media adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, said in a statement.
On Sunday, Sunni MP Leqaa Wardi claimed that government forces are using barrel bombs in shelling Fallujah. "The military operation in Fallujah has caused severe losses among civilians and army forces alike," she told Anadolu Agency.
Sheikh Mohamed al-Bagari, a spokesman for anti-government Sunni tribes in Fallujah, also said that thousands of residents have fled the violence-wracked city following barrel bomb shelling on their homes in several districts.
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 militants – 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.
Approximately 2.5 million people are expected to be severely food insecure between January and March of next year, according to OCHA, while malnutrition threatens the lives of tens of thousands of children in the troubled country.
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