BAGHDAD - Fighters battling to retake Falluja from Islamic State said on Sunday they had the Iraqi city almost completely encircled, as civilians risked their lives trying to flee.
At least four people drowned and nine were missing after trying to cross the Euphrates river to escape the Islamic State stronghold city just west of Baghdad, medics and officials said.
The drowned bodies of two children, a women and an older man were taken to a hospital in Ameriyat Falluja, a town downstream under government control, a local official said. Police said they were looking for nine other people believed to have been on the same boat.
Pictures broadcast by Dubai-based Arabiya TV in recent days showed families using rafts and sometimes just swimming across.
Young men were seen helping old men and women disembark when reaching the opposite side and carrying them onto the bank.