A video purporting to show a major air attack on Isis militants near Fallujah has been released.
At least 250 people, thought to be extremist fighters, are believed to have been killed – in just one air strike. If the figures are confirmed, the attack would be among the most deadly ever against the jihadist group.
In addition to the number of dead, an estimated 260 vehicles were destroyed.
Workers from NGO Preemptive Love Coalition were also caught up in the bombing, but escaped unharmed, according to a blog post on the group’s website.
Iraqi forces carried out the attack and posted the video footage online. A source told the BBC the convoy was apparently fleeing Fallujah, where government forces have recently declared victory, and were heading through the desert to regroup near Syria, where their position is stronger.
Fallujah, in Iraq’s Western Anbar province, has been under Isis control since the group took over the city in 2014. It has been the site of vicious fighting in recent weeks as Iraqi government forces fight to reclaim control. Fallujah was declared "fully liberated" on Sunday.
Months of planning went into the military operation to retake the city, which was Isis's last stronghold in the vast Anbar province. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has hailed a recent string of victories against the extremist group in Anbar, and last week proclaimed that Fallujah had "returned to the embrace of the nation".
But the fighting also led to a humanitarian crisis in the region, with thousands of people who fled the fighting now camped in the desert with little food, water or shelter.
The government was ill-prepared to deal with a humanitarian crisis unfolding less than an hour's drive west of Baghdad, where the U.N. estimates that 85,000 people have fled their homes in the past month.
The conditions in the camps are also reinforcing perceptions of a government that is hopelessly corrupt and ineffective. This could fuel unrest in the overwhelmingly Sunni province, which has a history of rebellion against the Shiite-led government going back to the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
A government spokesman acknowledged that authorities had been surprised by the wave of displaced, and said an emergency allocation of another $8.5 million in aid was approved earlier this month.
"Given the high population density inside the city, we prepared four camps before the operation," government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi told reporters. "But the large number of displaced people and the quick movement has made it very hard to meet their needs."
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