BAGHDAD (AP) — A local Iraqi official and an aid group say the Islamic State group is preventing people from fleeing Fallujah amid a military operation to recapture the city west of Baghdad.

Shakir al-Issawi, the head of the council in the nearby town of Amiriyat al-Fallujah, says only about 20 families have left from Fallujah’s outskirts since the offensive started three days ago. Al-Issawi says no families managed to flee Wednesday as IS militants tightly control the city outlets.

The Norwegian Refugee Council says IS extremists are threatening residents with death if they attempt to flee. Its spokesman, Becky Bakr Abdullah, says there is much fear for anyone “attempting to flee.”

Thousands of civilians are estimated to remain in Fallujah, which IS has held for over two years.

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