CAMP TARIQ, Iraq (AP) — A bomb attack on a group of civilians fleeing the Islamic State group-held city of Fallujah on Friday killed two people and wounded three, Iraqi federal police and eye witnesses said.
The explosion struck a group of dozens of civilians who were attempting to flee the city through an agricultural neighborhood on its northern edge.
An Iraqi federal police official said the Islamic State group was responsible for carrying out the attack, but that it was unclear if it was a suicide bombing or a booby-trapped explosive.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press.
This is the first reported bomb attack on civilians fleeing Fallujah, but civilians in other parts of Anbar province have been attacked while trying to escape fighting between IS and Iraqi government forces.
Residents trapped inside Fallujah said the Islamic State group has threatened those who try to escape with death.
Aid groups estimate some 50,000 civilians are trapped inside the city, which lies just west of the capital, Baghdad.
An international aid organization said Friday that 12,000 people have fled the outskirts of Fallujah since the operation to unseat IS was announced nearly two weeks ago. The Norwegian Refugee Council said that almost all the fleeing families lived on the city's outskirts.
Iraq's prime minister says safe corridors were established to allow some civilians to flee, but residents inside the city and aid groups say almost all of the 50,000 civilians inside Fallujah are trapped.
Fallujah has been held by IS extremists for more than two years. Iraqi forces have retaken most of the territory around the city, but are facing heavy resistance while pushing toward the center.