Bridge opens to let displaced Iraqis flee Anbar

An estimated three million people in Iraq -- such as these residents from Ramadi -- have been forced to flee their homes since the start of an offensive by islamic State militants in June 2014 (AFP Photo/Sabah Arar) (AFP/File)

Bzeibez (Iraq) (AFP) - More than 2,000 displaced were able Wednesday to flee the conflict-torn Iraqi province of Anbar after the authorities opened a bridge that had been closed for three days.

Fighting that led to the Islamic State's (IS) capture of the provincial capital of Anbar on Sunday forced around 40,000 people to flee their homes.

Many had massed at the Bzeibez floating bridge to cross into Baghdad but were prevented from going any further by security forces demanding every family have a sponsor.

"More than 2,000 people... crossed Bzeibez between last night and noon today. They are from Ramadi and other areas such as Khaldiya," a police colonel said.

According to the International Office for Migration, 40,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in Ramadi since May 15.

Tens of thousands were also displaced last month in an earlier wave of violence in and around Ramadi.

The city is now under full IS control but a big battle is shaping up as government and allied forces prepare for a counter-attack.

Some of the families that crossed still had no clear idea of where they were going to spend the night.

"I don't know where to go. Maybe we'll try Taji, we have relatives there," said Umma Nasr, a 65-year-old woman from Ramadi crossing Bzeibez with 16 other members of her family.

"I want nothing from God but the safety of my children," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

According to a medical source and local officials, at least six displaced people have died from lack of care as they waited for Bzeibez bridge to open.

New dangers face the Sunni displaced when they reach Baghdad, where some members of the Shiite majority see them as a security risk and suspect them of being infiltrated by IS.