UN: ISIS using tens of thousands as human shields in Mosul

2016-10-29 07:01
Kurdish security forces take up a position as they fight overlooking the Islamic State-controlled in villages surrounding Mosul, in Khazer, about 30km east of Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo)

Kurdish security forces take up a position as they fight overlooking the Islamic State-controlled in villages surrounding Mosul, in Khazer, about 30km east of Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo)

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Qayara Air Base - The Islamic State group appears to be using tens of thousands of people as "human shields" in and around Mosul, where Iraqi forces are waging a large-scale offensive aimed at retaking the country's second largest city, the UN human rights office said on Friday.

It has received reports of more than 200 people being killed for refusing to comply with IS orders or previously belonging to Iraqi security forces. It said "credible reports" suggest IS has been forcing tens of thousands from their homes in districts around Mosul.

"ISIL's depraved, cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields," spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said in Geneva, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group.

She said 232 people, mostly former officers, were reportedly shot Wednesday, and 24 on Tuesday. The group is widely believed to be rooting out anyone who could potentially rise up against it, focusing on Iraqis with military training or past links to security forces.

Iraq launched a massive operation on October 17 aimed at retaking Mosul, which fell to IS in a matter of days in the summer of 2014. Iraqi forces are advancing from several directions, but are still well outside the city itself.

‘Precision strikes’

READ: Jihadists 'shave beards' as pressure builds on Mosul

The US military, which is providing airstrikes and ground support for the operation, said it tried to disrupt the forced displacement of civilians south of Mosul earlier this week by striking militant vehicles being used in the operation.

US Air Force Brigadier General Matthew C Isler said the US-led coalition conducted "precision strikes" on vehicles that were unoccupied and far away from civilians.

"We were able to do that without harming any civilians and we verified we were able to degrade their planned use of those vehicles," he told The Associated Press. He said the forced displacement was another example of the group's "atrocities".

The AP reported earlier this week that IS militants were going door to door in villages south of Mosul, ordering hundreds of civilians at gunpoint on a forced march north into the city, apparently using them as human shields.

"IS took all of us from our homes at gunpoint and told us they were taking us with them to Mosul," Ahmed Bilal Harish said on Wednesday. "They said if you don't come with us you're an unbeliever."

He said he and his family were only able to escape when a volley of airstrikes caused the fighters to scatter during the 40km forced march from their home in the town of Shura to Mosul.

The UN and rights groups have expressed fear that more than 200 000 civilians could be displaced in the opening weeks of the offensive. Mosul is still home to more than a million people.

IS has built up elaborate defences on the outskirts of the city, including an extensive tunnel network, and has planted large numbers of explosive booby traps to slow the troops' progress.

Isler said Iraqi forces have retaken 40 villages from IS near Mosul since the operation began. But most of the fighting has taken place in a belt of sparsely-populated farming communities outside the city.

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Read more on:    un  |  is  |  iraq  |  security

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