FALLUJAH, Iraq, May 28 (UPI) -- The Islamic State's commander in Fallujah was among 70 militants killed in an airstrike, the U.S. military announced.
Maher al-Bilawi was killed when the U.S.-led coalition bombed the city, one of more than 20 airstrikes over four days, Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday. He said the attack was carried out two days earlier.
The raids supporting Iraqi forces are efforts to retake Fallujah from the IS, also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.
The combined force comprise thousands of Iraqi army troops, the federal police and Sunni tribal fighters, Warren said.
Warren said it was uncertain how long the battle to retake the city would last.
About 50,000 civilians are trapped in the city and have been told via leaflet drops to avoid IS areas and put white sheets on their roofs, Warren said.
The United Nations said people are dying of starvation and being killed for refusing to fight for IS.
"We have dramatic reports of the increase of the number of executions of men and older boys, refusing to fight on behalf of ISIL," said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "Other reports say a number of people attempting to depart have been executed, or whipped. One man's leg was amputated reportedly."
Hundreds of families fled the city Friday with the help of government forces, the UN said.
Iraqi security forces seized the town of Karma, about 10 miles northeast of Fallujah, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Thursday.
The Iraqi security forces' offensive to retake Fallujah, supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, began Monday.
Fallujah fell to IS in 2014.