Fighters from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) killed at least 18 members of two families as they attempted to flee Fallujah, AFP reported Sunday (June 12th).
ISIL has been using civilians as human shields to defend its stronghold since Iraqi forces launched a vast offensive on May 22nd.
"A number of residents were trying to flee and as they neared the al-Salam intersection, ISIL opened fire on them, killing 18 and wounding dozens," a senior officer at the joint operations command said.
The army was able to rescue some of the wounded, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Relatives said the initial group that tried to sneak out of ISIL-controlled areas on Friday included around 100 individuals, including a majority of women and children.
They were all from the same two families -- Albu Hatem and Albu Saleh -- and had made a previous failed attempt to leave days earlier.
"When they got near the intersection, which is the meeting point with the Iraqi forces, two gunmen on motorbikes arrived and sprayed them with gunfire," said Ahmed al-Ghneim, a relative.
Two of the survivors, relatives from the Albu Saleh family, are staying at his home in Ameriyat al-Fallujah, south of Fallujah, he said.
"Some of the residents jumped into the canal, some fled to a nearby house. When they entered it, it blew up on them because it was booby-trapped," he said.
"Some survivors were forced to go back inside Fallujah," al-Ghneim said.
"Three of my direct relatives, a man with two young children, were among those massacred," said Sami Albu Hatem, a relative who was already living in a camp in Ameriyat al-Fallujah.