Islamic State (Isis) fighters are using food to enlist civilians whose relatives are starving in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah. Fighters from the extremist Sunni organisation have kept a close guard on food supplies in the city they seized in January, 2014, and have offered supplies for those who enlist, fleeing residents told Reuters.
"They told our neighbour they would give him a sack of flour if his son joined them; he refused and when they had gone, he fled with his family," 23-year-old Hanaa Mahdi Fayadh told the news agency, speaking from a refugee centre in the town of Garma, east of Fallujah.
"We left because there was no food or wood to make fires. Besides, the shelling was very close to our house."
Around 50,000 civilians remain trapped in Fallujah, where Iraqi government forces and Shia militia launched an attack to oust Isis a fortnight ago.
Isis militants have reportedly used civilians as human shields, and snipers have shot civilians attempting to flee the city across the Euphrates on improvised rafts.
The Iraqi government stopped paying the salaries of government workers in Isis-controlled territory a year ago, and refugees claimed they no longer had money for food.
"Life was difficult, very hard, especially when we stopped receiving salaries and retirement pensions.
"The last seven months, we ran out of everything and had to survive on dates, and water," she said.
"Flour, rice and cooking oil were no longer available at an affordable price."
Isis militants have lain traps and explosive devices for advancing Iraqi government forces, who said they are advancing slowly to ensure minimum government casualties.