Daesh preventing civilians from leaving Ramadi ahead of offensive: residents
A member of the Iraqi security forces stands in the rubble of destroyed buildings east of Anbar province's capital Ramadi on December 20, 2015. (AFP/File)
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Daesh is preventing civilians from leaving the central city of Ramadi ahead of a major Iraqi military offensive aimed at liberating the strategic city from the militant group.
"There is intelligence information from inside the city that they are preventing families from leaving; they plan to use them as human shields," said a spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry, Naseer Nuri, on Monday.
According to Nuri, the inside information was gained from a few families who “managed to escape the gangs of Daesh.”
Earlier, Iraqi state television cited an Iraqi military official as saying that the offensive “to free Ramadi will begin in the coming hours.”
Based on Iraqi intelligence estimates, around 250 to 300 militants are currently holed up in the city.
On Sunday, the Iraqi air force dropped flyers over Ramadi calling on its residents to leave the city within 72 hours due to an imminent attack.
Meanwhile, at least 12 civilians were killed during two US-led airstrikes on a residential area in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
According to Reuters, the attacks were purportedly against the homes of a local Daesh commander and his son in a western district of the city, which fell into the group's hands in 2014.
The US and its allies have been carrying out an aerial offensive against what are claimed to be Daesh positions in Iraq since August 2014.
Also on Monday, Russia and France reached an agreement aimed at increasing the amount of intelligence they share over Daesh which also controls parts of land in Syria.
"We have agreed to strengthen our exchange of military information, both on the strikes and the location of the different groups (in Syria)," said French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian following talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
He noted that these mutual measures would strengthen already existing intelligence-sharing between the two countries.
"This is not being allied, this is coordinating," he noted.
Russia launched its air campaign against alleged Daesh targets in Syria on September 30 upon a request from the Damascus government. France carried out their first strikes against alleged Daesh positions in Syria on November 15.
This article has been modified from the source material.