As the battle for Mosul continues in northern Iraq, a source from within the Iraqi intelligence has told CNN that ISIS fighters have started targeting the civilian population in the city. In the latest incident on Friday, more than 284 people, including young boys, were rounded up and killed even as coalition forces made significant advances towards the recapture of the city.
According to the unnamed Iraqi intelligence officer, following the mass killings of Friday, the bodies of the dead were dumped in a mass grave at the defunct College of Agriculture in northern Mosul. The source refused to divulge any further information, stating that he was not authorized to speak to the media. Independent confirmation about this latest incident of mass killings is yet to come from government sources.
Meanwhile, the push into Mosul is also creating a significant refugee crisis as thousands of residents attempt to flee the warzone. Several of the displaced are already seeking shelter across camps set up by the United Nations. On Friday, the UN also issued a statement in which it stated that it is “gravely worried” about the current crisis. The statement also expressed concern over reports of the ISIS taking more than 550 families from villages around Mosul hostage to use them as human shields. The conflict has also led to more than 200 families from the villages of Samalia and 350 families from the village of Najafia to be forced out on Monday and taken to Mosul. These families, according to the UN, were forced out of their homes and kept captive so that they are not able to escape. This has been confirmed by Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office.
Another confirmation about the gross human rights violations by ISIS fighters came from Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. According to Hussein, his office, too, received evidence which indicated that the ISIS forced civilians to leave outlying villages and head to Mosul. He also confirmed that several civilians suspected to be disloyal to the ISIS were shot dead. A statement issued by his office read the following.
“We are gravely worried by reports that (ISIS) is using civilians in and around Mosul as human shields as the Iraqi forces advance, keeping civilians close to their offices or places where fighters are located, which may result in civilian casualties. There is a grave danger that (ISIS) fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated. Any ISIS fighters who are captured or surrendered should be held accountable in accordance with the law for any crimes they have committed.”
The same office is also investigating another report in which more than 40 civilians were rounded up and killed in an unnamed village just outside Mosul.
Meanwhile, both the Pentagon and the Iraqi government have said that the operation to recapture Mosul is on track. At the beginning of the operation a few days ago, several officials claimed that Mosul would be in their control within two weeks. However the ISIS seems to be holding out well and is preparing for a long drawn battle. There are also reports which indicate that the ISIS seems to be changing their battle tactics in Mosul. This has been indicated by an Iraqi commander Jamal al Amenki who said that there has been a marked change in the way ISIS fighters are responding to the Mosul siege.
Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, has been under ISIS occupation since June 2014 when the ISIS ran over the city and took control of the city after a week-long battle.
[Featured Image by Khalid Mohammed/AP Images]