Civilians trapped as noose tightens in Mosul
AS THE battle for west Mosul nears its end, Islamic State (IS) militants holed up in the old city are putting up a fierce fight and reportedly using Iraqi civilians as human shields.
Reporting the news has also come at a high cost, with two journalists killed and several others wounded, in a landmine blast as Iraq’s forces pushed deeper into the last remaining stronghold of the IS.
Kurdish reporter Bakhtiyar Addad, who was working with a French team as a fixer and interpreter, succumbed to his wounds yesterday after Monday’s explosion, according to public broadcaster France Television and global journalist rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders.
Commenting on Addad’s death, The Metro Centre for Journalists Rights and Advocacy said that “one more journalist became a victim to spreading the truth”.
Addad had been wounded three times previously as he covered the war in Mosul.
The surviving journalists were taken to a hospital on a US military base.
Meanwhile, the growing plight of the more than 100 000 civilians still trapped in Mosul has alarmed the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
According to the UN, there have been numerous reports of IS fanatics using those still trapped in west Mosul as human shields.
The UN said it believed that up to 150 000 civilians were still trapped in harrowing conditions in Mosul’s Old City where IS fighters were battling advancing Iraqi forces and shooting at anyone trying to flee as part of a tactic to keep them as human shields.
Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian chief, said the conditions of the civilians were desperate and they would probably all try to escape.
There were further reports of IS men welding the doors of civilian homes shut in an effort to prevent them from trying to escape. The ICRC has also voiced its concern, saying that tens of thousands of civilians remained trapped as military operations intensified in the densely populated old town.
“It is crucial that wounded civilians in the conflict areas be evacuated without delay to the nearest medical facility,” said the ICRC’s Head of Delegation in Iraq, Katharina Ritz.
The flow of wounded civilians out of west Mosul has increased in recent days. About 90% of victims seen by the ICRC’s surgical team have wounds from gunshots, shelling, and bombs.
“We’re seeing dozens of new patients a day, including children and the elderly. For a heartbreakingly high number, it was simply too late; they died soon after reaching us,” said Julia Schurch, an ICRC emergency room specialist deployed in west Mosul.
A special ICRC report on urban warfare released last week found that civilian deaths due to armed conflict inside cities in Syria, Yemen and Iraq amounted to 47% of all civilians killed worldwide in armed conflicts.
The ICRC has been providing assistance to the affected population since the start of the Mosul operation.
Iraqi soldiers eat their meal along the road beside their armoured fighting vehicles in western Mosul. PICTURE: REUTERS