Iraq closes key bridge used by families fleeing Anbar

Aid groups say dozens of families are stranded on the Anbar side of the Bzebiz bridge after Iraqi officials closed it.

    Displaced people fleeing Anbar must now travel through the isolated town of Habbaniyah [AP]
    Displaced people fleeing Anbar must now travel through the isolated town of Habbaniyah [AP]

    Iraqi authorities have shut down a bridge between Anbar and Baghdad used by people displaced because of fighting between security forces and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

    Aid agencies said the Bzebiz bridge between the town of Amariyat al-Fallujah and the capital was shut down on Wednesday, leaving dozens of families stranded on the Anbar side and prompting demands from provincial officials to reopen the crossing. 

    Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said officials had allowed 100 families to cross for "humanitarian reasons", but the bridge remained closed.

    The head of Anbar's provincial council, Sabah Kerhout, told Al Jazeera that families were now taking a longer route through Habbaniyah, which lies about 105km west of Baghdad.

    Kerhout said the journey took a more remote path than the existing route and that less help was available to those displaced.

    He said provincial officials have asked the government to reopen the bridge but Iraq tightly controls access between Anbar and Baghdad for what it says are security reasons.

    The government has previously placed restrictions on displaced Iraqis  trying to seek refuge in Baghdad fearing infiltration by ISIL members. 

    Amariyat al-Fallujah: On the frontline with ISIL

    The closure of the bridge comes amid attempts by Iraqi forces to regain control of parts of Anbar controlled by ISIL.

    Iraqi troops and allied tribal forces had on Friday secured control of Saqlawiya district north of Fallujah.

    In western Anbar, ISIL is continuing to launch attacks on Haditha with gunmen in armoured vehicles gathering from the east and west of the city.

    Tribal leaders were calling on the government to provide air support to push the fighters back and said 25 fighters from the Albu Nimr tribe had been killed in clashes with ISIL over the past four days.

    ISIL has continued to seize territory from the Iraqi government after its offensive last year captured most of Anbar. The group captured the province's capital Ramadi in May after a year battling  the Iraqi army for control.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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