A protracted siege against the major Sunni city of Fallujah has left Iraq’s military at a loss. Unable to breach the defenses of the city and fight off the al-Qaeda militants who now control it, they are turning to increasingly desperate measures including barrel bombs.
The makeshift bombs, explosive-packed oil drums filled with shrapnel, have become a popular weapon for Syria’s government in the ongoing civil war there, but this is the first reporting that the tactic, criticized for its inaccuracy and tendency to inflict large civilian casualties, has reached Iraq.
Officials haven’t confirmed the strikes on the record, but anonymously, Agence-France Presse quoted one official involved in planning the siege saying it was part of a “scorched-earth policy” meant to prevent the rebels seizing the advantage in house-to-house fighting.
The government’s official statements would only tout the bravery of the troops engaged in the “extraordinary war” against Anbar, but as the bombardment of Fallujah leaves more and more neighborhoods in ruins, it is creating a mess exodus of thousands of civilians from the area.
Fallujah has effectively been outside of government hands all year, starting with angry protests against the arrest of a local MP as a “terrorist” and quickly losing the city outright to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which has since taken much of the rest of the province.
The violence across Anbar has death tolls once again at levels resembling the worst days of the US occupation, with 210 people killed yesterday and 38 more killed today. So far in 2014, every month has been worse than the previous one, and that trend seems to be continuing.