Ramadi , Iraq (BBN)-Islamic State militants are cementing their hold on Ramadi – the Iraqi city they captured on Sunday, reports say.
Militants were going door-to-door looking for government sympathisers and throwing bodies in the nearby Euphrates river, residents were quoted as saying, reports BBC.
Thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen are gathering east of Ramadi ahead of a bid to retake the city. IS militants are reportedly heading towards them.
The United Nations has warned of a humanitarian crisis as thousands flee.
It says some 25,000 people have left the city, only 105km (65 miles) west of Baghdad, in recent days, adding to a flood of people already displaced from the area. Many were sleeping in the open.
The UN says it is trying to meet the needs of those displaced, but funds are low and its stocks have almost gone.
The loss of Ramadi, the capital of the western Anbar province, is a blow for both the Iraqi government and US strategy in the area, say the BBC’s Jim Muir in Beirut.
Retaking it is a massive challenge to the Iraqi government, which has had to appeal to the Shia militias despite the risks of a sectarian backlash from sending them deep into the Sunni heartland, our correspondent says.
Police and military made a chaotic retreat from the city, which has been contested for months, after days of intense fighting.
Reports from Ramadi described deserted streets, with residents making hurried trips out of their houses to search for food.
IS militants were breaking into the homes of policemen and pro-government tribesmen, said residents who spoke to Associated Press news agency.
Homes and shops owned by pro-government Sunni militiamen were looted or torched, the residents said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Some 3,000 Shia militiamen are said to be “on stand-by” at al-Habbaniyah military camp, some 20km east of Ramadi, in preparation for an attempt to recapture the city.
On Tuesday Anbar police chief Kadhim al-Fahdawi told AFP news agency a large number of well-prepared troops were positioned in Husaybah, which is closer to Ramadi.
He said this area – deep in Iraq’s Sunni heartland – would be the “starting point” for operations, but that much planning remained to be done.
“The military operation to liberate Ramadi and Anbar will not start until all the requirements are met,” Mr Fahdawi said.
The Shia militias, known as the Popular Mobilisation (al-Hashd al-Shaabi), were key to the recapture from IS of another city, Tikrit, north of Baghdad, in April.
But although their presence was welcomed by some Sunni leaders, some Ramadi residents said they feared them as much as the Islamic State fighters.
“If the Shia militias enter Ramadi, they will do the same things being done by Daesh [IS],” Abu Ammar, an Anbar native who owns a grocery store in Ramadi, told AP.
“In both cases, we will be either killed or displaced. For us, the militias and IS militants are two faces of the same coin.”
The US will have to decide whether it will use its air power in support of the Iranian-backed militias, he says.
The US has not given a uniform response to the capture of Ramadi, with the Pentagon suggesting it is not tactically significant, while the state department describes it as a setback.
But the eight sorties flown over Ramadi by US forces in the past day suggest it is a pressing concern, says the BBC’s Jon Sopel in Washington.
Anbar province covers a vast stretch of the country west from Baghdad to the Syrian border, and contains key roads that link Iraq to both Syria and Jordan.
IS reportedly controls more than half of Anbar’s territory.
Iraq’s largest province, which is Sunni-dominated, was occupied by US forces in 2003
Hostile to the US, fighting quickly broke out between US troops and the region’s Sunni insurgents
The worst battle came in 2004, when thousands died as US troops and coalition forces struggled to take the town of Falluja
Fighting continued in 2005 and 2006 during which time al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) rose to prominence
The US declared victory in 2007 but AQI remained, resuming attacks in 2011 when US troops withdrew.