Iraqis slow ad­vance to screen Mo­sul ar­eas

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Brian Ro­han and Qas­sim Ab­dul-Zahra

BAGH­DAD — Iraqi troops fired at po­si­tions held by the Is­lamic State group in and around the north­ern city of Mo­sul on Thurs­day but did not ad­vance as they re­grouped and cleared neigh­bor­hoods once oc­cu­pied by the ex­trem­ists, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

Troops are screen­ing res­i­dents flee­ing Mo­sul, search­ing for mil­i­tants try­ing to sneak out among the more than 34,000 civil­ians flee­ing to dis­place­ment camps and host com­mu­ni­ties in nearby prov­inces.

The of­fen­sive has also slowed as spe­cial forces push into more densely pop­u­lated ar­eas of east­ern Mo­sul, where they can­not rely as much on airstrikes be­cause of the risk to civil­ians who have been told to stay in their homes.

Mean­while, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional re­ported al­le­ga­tions against se­cu­rity forces of ar­bi­trary de­ten­tion, forced dis­ap­pear­ances and ill-treat­ment of pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing an ac­count that up to six peo­ple were “ex­tra­ju­di­cially ex­e­cuted” in late Oc­to­ber over sus­pected ties to the Is­lamic State, also called ISIS.

The Lon­don- based rights or­ga­ni­za­tion said the al­leged killings took place near the area of Shura and Qa­yara out­side Mo­sul, and it urged the gov­ern­ment to in­ves­ti­gate.

“Men in Fed­eral Po­lice uni­form have car­ried out mul­ti­ple un­law­ful killings, ap­pre­hend­ing and then de­lib­er­ately killing in cold blood res­i­dents in vil­lages south of Mo­sul,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy direc­tor for re­search at Amnesty’s Beirut of­fice.

“In some cases the res­i­dents were tor­tured be­fore they were shot dead ex­e­cu­tion-style,” she said, adding that it was “cru­cial” for Iraqi au­thor­i­ties to bring those re­spon­si­ble to jus­tice.

“Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi de­nied the re­port, call­ing it “in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion” and say­ing in a state­ment that ISIS fight­ers were the ones re­spon­si­ble for the killing of civil­ians.

Since the of­fen­sive to re­take one of Iraq’s largest cities be­gan Oct. 17, the Shi­ite-led gov­ern­ment has tried to pre­vent re­venge at­tacks against the mainly Sunni res­i­dents of Mo­sul and sur­round­ing ar­eas. State-sanc­tioned Shi­ite mili­tias and Kur­dish forces say they won’t en­ter the city, and the gov­ern­ment has vowed to in­ves­ti­gate any hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions and hold peo­ple ac­count­able.

Iraqi troops are con­verg­ing from sev­eral fronts on Mo­sul, the last ma­jor Is­lamic State hold­out in Iraq. Kur­dish pesh­merga forces are hold­ing a line north of the city, while Iraqi army and mil­i­ta­rized po­lice units ap­proach from the south, and gov­ern­ment- sanc­tioned Shi­ite mili­tias are guard­ing western ap­proaches.

Col. John Dor­rian, a spokesman for the U.S.-led forces op­er­at­ing the air cam­paign against ISIS, said ad­vanc­ing troops and air­craft have de­stroyed some 70 tun­nels the ji­hadis had been us­ing to launch sur­prise at­tacks from in­side densely pop­u­lated ar­eas.

In Bagh­dad, mean­while, bomb­ings killed 10 peo­ple and wounded 38 oth­ers.

ODD AN­DER­SEN/GETTY-AFP

Dis­placed Iraqis wait to be moved Thurs­day from a check­point 22 miles east of Mo­sul.

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