Mo­sul es­capees tell of hu­man shield or­deal

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

QABR AL ABD, Iraq:

Iraqi civil­ians who es­caped from the Islamic State group strong­hold of Mo­sul said ji­hadists forced them from their vil­lages and drove them “like sheep” to use as hu­man shields.

Bashar hud­dled with his fam­ily on the back of an Iraqi se­cu­rity forces pick-up truck af­ter fi­nally flee­ing an area of Mo­sul still held by IS. As gov­ern­ment forces ear­lier this month ad­vanced on the city-the last ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­tre held by IS in Iraq-the fam­ily was herded with res­i­dents from out­ly­ing vil­lages into Mo­sul by the re­treat­ing ji­hadists as an in­sur­ance against the US-led coali­tion air strikes and Iraqi shelling.

Even­tu­ally they got lucky and man­aged to es­cape-trekking home­wards on foot be­fore the small group he was with man­aged to at­tract the at­ten­tion of in­te­rior min­istry troops on the other side of the river Ti­gris.

The troops sent a boat for them and brought them across on a last leg that fi­nally saw them get out of IS ter­ri­tory. “We saw the se­cu­rity forces and started shout­ing to them so they came to us,” Bashar told AFP, shiv­er­ing in the chilly evening air. “I swear we are go­ing to die from cold.”

What they left be­hind, he said, was an in­creas­ingly des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion for civil­ians in the bulk of the Mo­sul still con­trolled by IS as Iraqi forces bat­tle fierce re­sis­tance while push­ing slowly into the east­ern part of the city. “I swear the sit­u­a­tion is not good-shoot­ing ev­ery­where, fam­i­lies sleep­ing in the streets, peo­ple are so tired,” he said. “They are in the mid­dle of the fire.”

‘Noth­ing to lose’

The United Na­tions has re­ported that IS forced “tens of thou­sands of peo­ple from their homes in some districts around Mo­sul” as Iraqi forces pushed the ji­hadists back.

Among them were Has­san, his mother and their fam­ily, who said they were “driven like sheep” to­wards the IS bas­tion when the gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive started. “Mo­sul is full of peo­ple. They lack proper ac­com­mo­da­tion. They don’t have food,” he said. “They are just wait­ing for their destiny.”

Has­san’s fa­ther and some of their rel­a­tives are still trapped in­side Mo­sul, so he asked AFP to use a pseu­do­nym and his mother re­fused to give her name. They said they snuck out of the vi­o­lence-wracked city at night and spent two days with­out sleep as they dodged IS and got lost try­ing to find their way home.

Af­ter spend­ing their first night back in their house they were still ex­hausted but re­lieved to be out from un­der the con­trol of the ji­hadists. Has­san’s mother pointed to her feet and said that they were still swollen from all the walk­ing it took to get back to their vil­lage. “We made it out be­cause we felt like we had noth­ing to lose,” she said. — AFP

DOHA: French For­eign Min­is­ter Jean-Marc Ayrault at­tends the 9th Edi­tion Global Gov­er­nance con­fer­ence as he meets Qatari lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Syr­ian op­po­si­tion in the Qatari cap­i­tal Doha yes­ter­day. — AFP

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