Mosul civilians facing abuse from ISIS, Iraqi forces

Sunday 29/01/2017
ISIS expelled civilians from their homes

London - Civilians in Mosul are fac­ing increased threats from both Islamic State (ISIS) and Iraqi forces battling to retake the country’s sec­ond largest city from the militant extremists.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi ordered an investigation into violations of human rights and oth­er abuses purportedly committed by government troops and paramili­tary forces battling ISIS.
Abadi said the probe would exam­ine “cases of kidnappings, mistreat­ment and violations” against civil­ians. Abadi blamed such incidents on “groups that exploit the good name” of Iraqi soldiers and Shia and Sunni paramilitaries.
The statement said that the abus­es were posted on social media to “spoil the joy of victory and to de­fame the real image of the brave security forces and their sacrifices to liberate the land and to maintain security”.
Abadi’s statement came after the United Nations demanded a gov­ernment investigation into a video purportedly showing brutal treat­ment and killing of at least three ISIS suspects in a newly taken area of eastern Mosul.
The nearly 3-minute video pur­portedly showed members of secu­rity forces in regular army and po­lice uniforms dragging and beating the suspects before shooting them with at least two army Humvees, a tank and a personnel carrier sta­tioned nearby.
Iraqi forces launched the massive operation in October to retake Mo­sul, which fell to ISIS in the summer of 2014. The United States is sup­porting them with air strikes and US soldiers are serving in a support role on the ground.
Air strikes targeting ISIS fight­ers in Mosul are killing civilians, although facts and casualty num­bers are hard to verify, said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman with the UN human rights office. “We have been receiving quite a lot of reports of civilian casualties caused by air strikes,” she told a news brief­ing in Geneva.
The United Nations said it was working to prepare emergency aid for hundreds of thousands of en­dangered civilians in Mosul.
“We are racing against the clock to prepare for this,” UN Humanitar­ian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters. Humanitarian agen­cies were setting up displaced peo­ple in camps accessible from west­ern Mosul and positioning supplies in them, she said.
“The reports from inside western Mosul are distressing,” she said in a separate statement. “Prices of ba­sic food and supplies are soaring… Many families without income are eating only once a day. Others are being forced to burn furniture to stay warm.”
UN officials estimate 750,000 people remain in Mosul west of the Tigris River, which flows through the last remaining major urban cen­tre in Iraq held by ISIS. Iraqi officials said government forces had taken complete control of eastern Mosul.
The west side could prove more complicated to take, however, as it is criss-crossed with streets too nar­row for military vehicles, allowing ISIS militants to hide among civil­ians.
More than 100,000 Iraqi troops, members of regional Kurdish secu­rity forces and Shia and Sunni para­militaries are participating in the offensive.
Iraqi forces estimated the num­ber of militants inside Mosul at 5,000-6,000 at the start of opera­tions three months ago and say 3,300 have been killed in the fight­ing since.
Military preparations to recapture western Mosul have begun, with Shia militias preparing an opera­tion to pave the way for the main of­fensive on the western bank of the Tigris, the overall campaign com­mander, Lieutenant-General Abdul Ameer Yarallah, told Mosuliya TV.
More than 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the start of the offensive, UN officials said. Medi­cal and humanitarian agencies es­timate the number of dead and wounded — both civilian and mili­tary — at several thousand.
ISIS has “continued to attack those fleeing or attempting to flee areas that are controlled by it”, Shamdasani said, and was shelling districts retaken by the army.
ISIS expelled civilians from their homes along the Tigris on Mosul’s west bank, apparently bracing for a cross-river attack on their bastion by Iraqi forces, residents said.

“The group forced us to leave our homes… without allowing us to take our belongings,” a resident of Al-Maidan, a neighbourhood on the city’s west bank, told Agence France-Presse.
“It deployed gun positions and posted snipers on roofs and at win­dows,” the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal by ISIS. “We were forced to leave the area because it will be­come a battlefield and so we moved in with relatives in other parts of the city.”