The UN says it is trying to reach some 40,000 civilians displaced from Ramadi by the advance of Islamic State (IS). The largest concentration is at Bzebiz bridge which has been closed by the authorities to prevent those fleeing from entering Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. There are reports of children dying of dehydration in the heat, the UN’s Dominik Bartsch told the BBC:
IS seized Ramadi earlier this week. Pro-government militias are preparing an offensive to retake the city. IS militants are reported to be pressing eastwards from Ramadi – capital of Anbar province – down the Euphrates Valley towards Habbaniya where the Shia militias have been deployed.
If they take Habbaniya, the Sunni militants will be close to linking up directly with Falluja, a city close to Baghdad which they have held for more than over a year despite repeated attacks by government forces. It is unclear why the Bzebiz bridge over the Euphrates was closed, though there have been concerns that militants could mingle with the displaced and infiltrate the capital.
Bzebiz is seen as the one safe crossing to Baghdad from Anbar province. Mr Bartsch, the UN Deputy Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, told the BBC there were three main locations of internally displaced people from Ramadi, with the most serious across the river at Bzebiz bridge.