IS uses Mo­sul civil­ians as hu­man shields

The Myanmar Times - - World -

IS­LAMIC State ji­hadists are trap­ping Mo­sul’s civil­ians to use as hu­man shields, the Pen­tagon said, as Pres­i­dent Barack Obama warned of “sig­nif­i­cant” potential dis­place­ment as the of­fen­sive for the Iraqi city pro­gresses.

Au­thor­i­ties and aid agen­cies are brac­ing for a mas­sive flow of civil­ians flee­ing the north­ern Iraqi city as the fight to seize the last re­main­ing IS strong­hold in the coun­try pro­gresses.

The battle, which be­gan on Oc­to­ber 17, has so far fo­cused on the vil­lages sur­round­ing Iraq’s se­cond-largest city, most of which are tra­di­tion­ally Kur­dish.

Pen­tagon spokesper­son Navy Cap­tain Jeff Davis said the IS had for weeks kept Mo­sul’s es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion of 1.5 mil­lion from es­cap­ing, with the start of the of­fen­sive of­fer­ing them no respite.

“We know they are be­ing used as hu­man shields,” Mr Davis said.

“They are be­ing held there against their will. We have not seen any change in the last day of peo­ple leav­ing or flee­ing.”

Al­though there has been no mass ex­o­dus of civil­ians so far, Mr Obama warned of “sig­nif­i­cant” dis­place­ment in the com­ing weeks, say­ing the United Na­tions and other aid groups were ready to re­spond.

“We have put to­gether plans and in­fra­struc­ture for deal­ing with a potential hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis that are as ex­ten­sive as the mil­i­tary plans,” Mr Obama said.

United Na­tions spokesper­son Stephane Du­jar­ric said an es­ti­mated 200,000 peo­ple are ex­pected to be dis­placed in the first weeks of the of­fen­sive, growing to as many as one mil­lion un­der a worst case sce­nario.

For now at least, Iraqi au­thor­i­ties and the US-led coali­tion want civil­ians to stay put, fear­ing they will be ex­e­cuted if they are caught leav­ing.

A US B-52 su­per­bomber dropped thou­sands of leaflets giv­ing ad­vice to the peo­ple of Mo­sul, ex­plain­ing how to minimise risks to life and prop­erty dur­ing the battle.

The fight­ing so far has been fairly light, mainly fo­cused on vil­lages east of Mo­sul that Kur­dish pesh­merga fight­ers are reclaiming from IS.

Mr Davis said ji­hadists were de­ploy­ing sui­cide-car at­tack­ers and had been at­tempt­ing to thwart air raids and in­tel­li­gence drones by ig­nit­ing gi­ant pits of oil and tires to cre­ate thick smoke to hide their move­ments and po­si­tions.

Es­ti­mates vary for the num­ber of IS fight­ers in­side Mo­sul, where they have had two years to dig in, build tun­nels and booby trap count­less roads and build­ings.

Ap­prox­i­mately 10,000 Kurds are mov­ing in on the city, with an­other 20,000 Iraqi se­cu­rity forces and po­lice fol­low­ing be­hind.

The US-led coali­tion has trained tens of thou­sands of Iraqi fight­ers and is pro­vid­ing con­tin­ual air and ar­tillery cover. –

Photo: AFP

Iraqi forces de­ploy in Ba­jwaniyah vil­lage, about 30 kilo­me­tres south of Mo­sul, on Oc­to­ber 18, af­ter they lib­er­ated it from Is­lamic State ji­hadists.

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