By Arif Yusuf and Ali Jawad
BAGHDAD (AA) – Iraq’s Academy for Sunni Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) on Wednesday announced its rejection of what it described as the "policy of collective punishment" being carried out against the people of Fallujah during ongoing military operations to retake the city from the Daesh terrorist group.
"Innocents cannot be punished for the crimes of Daesh," the Baghdad-based academy said in a statement, calling on the Iraqi government to provide civilian residents of Fallujah with safe passage out of the city.
An NGO devoted to interpreting Sunni-Muslim jurisprudence, the academy pursues activities both inside Iraq and abroad.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Monday, Rajee Barakat, a security official in Anbar province (in which Fallujah is located), accused Iraq’s pro-government Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militia of shelling Fallujah haphazardly amid the ongoing military operation.
According to local sources, at least 19 civilians have been killed in Fallujah by artillery and airstrikes carried out by the Iraqi army and their allies since the offensive began Sunday night.
Located along the Euphrates River about 50 kilometers west of capital Baghdad, Fallujah -- which fell to Daesh in early 2014 -- is currently home to some 90,000 people.
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Mahmoud Barakat contributed to this report from Ankara.