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Jun 30, 8:02 AM EDT

Iraqi official: IS convoy fleeing Fallujah destroyed

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's Defense Ministry has released footage showing airstrikes on dozens of vehicles, which officials said was an IS convoy fleeing the western city of Fallujah following its recapture by the Iraqi military.

"More than 20 helicopters took part in the mission and were able to destroy more than 138 vehicles," Iraqi army commander Lt. Gen. Hamid al-Maliki said in footage released by the Defense Ministry late Wednesday night. Al-Maliki said the Iraqi helicopters carried out all of the strikes. "No other force took part in the operation," he said.

Iraqi forces declared the city of Fallujah fully liberated Sunday after government troops pushed the remaining IS fighters out of the city's north and west under close cover of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes. Hundreds of IS fighters were suspected to have escaped the city during the operation, according to Iraqi commanders on the ground.

IS has suffered a string of military defeats in Iraq over the past year. At the height of the group's power, IS controlled nearly a third of Iraq, having blitzed across large swaths of the country's north and west and captured Iraq's second-largest city of Mosul. Now the group is estimated to control 14 percent of Iraqi territory, according to the office of Iraq's prime minister.

On Thursday the U.N. children's fund warned that IS's invasion and the military operation to unseat them have had a "catastrophic impact," with some 4.7 million Iraqi children in need of humanitarian assistance.

In a report titled "A Heavy Price for Children," UNICEF warned that 3.6 million Iraqi children are at "serious risk" of death, injury, sexual violence, abduction and recruitment into armed groups, and called on warring parties in Iraq to protect their rights. It said that the number of children in Iraq at serious risk of death or wartime exploitation had increased by 1.3 million in the past 18 months.

UNICEF described Iraq as "one of the most dangerous places in the world for children." It said children were also affected by the lack of adequate health care, poor public services and the desperate state of education.

"Children in Iraq are in the firing line and are being repeatedly and relentlessly targeted," said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF's Iraq representative. "We appeal to all parties for restraint and to respect and protect children. We must help give children the support they need to recover from the horrors of war and contribute to a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq."


Associated Press writer Ahmed Sami contributed to this report.

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