CAIRO - Iraqi Sunni political leaders are accusing the government of two bloody attacks on civilians in Anbar province in the past 24 hours. An Iraqi military spokesman denies the charges.
Iraqi media claims attacks have killed a large number of civilians in Anbar province's largest cities of Ramadi and Faluja.
Sunni leaders from Anbar province say dozens of civilians were killed and wounded in a government airstrike on a football stadium near Ramadi. The city is occupied by the Islamic State terrorist group and government forces have surrounded it on three sides.
Witnesses also accuse government forces of shelling parts of Anbar's second largest city Falujah, killing several dozen people. Other reports claim the government dropped barrel bombs over parts of the city. VOA could not independently confirm the allegation.
Iraqi government military spokesman Sa'ad Ma'an denies the government is targeting civilians, claiming Islamic State militants are responsible for recent casualties.
He says the Iraqi government and the security forces are concerned for the safety of citizens and have not attacked civilian targets in Falujah or elsewhere. He accuses Arab media of deliberately sullying the image of the military, now that it is making advances.
Prime Minister Haidar Abadi told state TV government forces are working to “liberate” parts of Anbar province.
He says Iraqi military forces and Shi'ite volunteers are carrying out an important operation to liberate part of Anbar province and other regions in order to allow refugees to return to their homes. He claims the government is also providing aid to refugees where they are stranded.
Sunni member of parliament Hamid Mutlaq told journalists government shelling of civilians during the month of Ramadan has killed more than 90 people, wounding 100.
He says bad government policies have left civilians stranded, caught between terrorists and government shelling. He says that frightened, hungry people have been left with nowhere to go. Terrorism, he insists, cannot be solved with barrel bombs or hatred, but with forgiveness.
Arab media report more than 8,000 civilians have been killed or wounded in Anbar province this year.
American University of Beirut political science professor Hilal Khashan tells VOA Arab governments are often “callous” in their treatment of civilians.
“I do not really think the Iraqi military and air force deliberately targeted civilians, but they do not care. They hit and they hit indiscriminately. They do not care as long as they attack their supposed enemies. The fate and well being of their peoples is the last thing on their mind,” said Khashan.
In related developments, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike on an Islamic State target Sunday in Iraq's second largest city of Mosul reportedly killed scores of militants.