Civilians flee falluja
A member of the Iraqi security forces carries a child as he assists civilians, who had fled their homes due to clashes, at Camp Tariq, south of Fallujah, Iraq, on 4 June, 2016 REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Islamic State (Isis) is shooting and killing civilians who are trying to flee their homes from violence, the Norwegian Refugee Council says. "Reports from families that NRC has been in touch with describe that civilians trying to cross the Euphrates river in order to flee the fighting are being targeted by armed opposition groups," the Guardian reported the agency as saying in a statement.

The NRC runs camps in the town of Amriyat al-Fallujah to which most people escaping the violence from outlying areas are headed. At least 50,000 people are still trapped in the centre of Fallujah and many are being used as human shields by IS.

"An unidentified number of civilians have been shot and killed trying to cross the river," it said. According to media reports, the only way for civilians to leave the centre of Fallujah, which is filled with booby traps and roadside bombs, is to sneak out through the river.

The head of Falluja's regional council, Shakir al-Essawi, told Reuters that people were trying to cross the Euphrates in refrigerators and cupboards.

Fallujah is located 50 km west of Baghdad and has been one of the two strongholds of Daesh in Iraq since it fell to the terrorist group in January 2014; the other is Mosul.

Nasr Muflahi, Iraq's country director of NRC, said in a statement: "Our biggest fears are now tragically confirmed with civilians being directly targeted while trying to flee to safety.

"This is the worst that we feared would happen to innocent men, women and children who have had to leave everything behind in order to save their lives."

The agency added that around 18,000 people reached the displacement camps since the fighting began to recapture Fallujah late last month.