Iraqi Army Targets Site of IS Executions in Mosul

Iraqi Army Targets Site  of IS Executions in MosulIraqi Army Targets Site  of IS Executions in Mosul

The Iraqi Army was trying on Thursday to reach a town south of Mosul where the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has reportedly executed dozens to deter the population against any attempt to support the US-led offensive in the last major city stronghold of IS in Iraq.

Eleven days into what is expected to be the biggest ground offensive in Iraq since the US-led invasion of 2003, the army and federal police units were fighting off sniper fire and suicide car bombs south of Hammam al-Alil, the site of the reported executions, an Iraqi military spokesman said.

The militants shot dead dozens of prisoners there, most of them former members of the Iraqi police and army, taken from villages the group has been forced to abandon as the troops advanced, officials in the region said on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The executions were meant “to terrorize the others, those who are in Mosul in particular”, and also to get rid of the prisoners, said Abdul Rahman al-Waggaa, a member of the Nineveh provincial council.

“Some of the families of those executed are also held in Hammam al-Alil,” he said.

UN human rights spokesman, Rupert Colville, on Tuesday said IS fighters had reportedly killed scores of people around Mosul in the last week.

A Reuters correspondent met relatives of hostages south of Mosul. One of them was a police officer who had returned to see the family that he had left behind when his village fell under the militants’ control two years ago.

“I’m afraid they will keep pulling them back from village to village until they get to Mosul. And then they will disappear,” he said, asking not to be identified to protect family members still in the hands of the fighters.

Reuters also spoke to a woman and an elderly man who were part of a group of families forced to march two to three days to reach Mosul from the villages of Safiya and Ellezaga, about 30 km and 50 km to the south respectively.

Children and the elderly were released when they arrived in Mosul, on Tuesday, and told to stay with relatives, they said, speaking on the phone from one of the few places where there is still telephone coverage, on the city’s edges.

A resident of Mosul, Rayyan, said he saw the families when they arrived in the city, “their bare feet bleeding and covered with dust as if coming from under the rubble”.

  Fierce Defense

IS fighters are keeping up their fierce defense of the southern approaches to Mosul, which has held up Iraqi troops there and forced an elite army unit east of the city to put a more rapid advance on hold. The fall of Mosul would mark IS’s effective defeat in Iraq.

The city is many times bigger than any other that the ultra-hardline militant group has ever captured, and it was from its Grand Mosque in 2014 that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a “caliphate” that also spans parts of Syria.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday an attack on Raqqa, IS’s main stronghold in Syria, would start while the battle of Mosul is still unfolding. It was the first official suggestion that US-backed forces in both countries could mount simultaneous operations to crush the caliphate.

The frontlines east and north of Mosul have moved much closer to the edges of the city than the southern front and the combat ahead is likely to get more deadly as 1.5 million residents remain in the city. Worst-case UN forecasts see up to a million people being uprooted. UN aid agencies said the fighting had so far forced about 16,000 people to flee.

“Assessments have recorded a significant number of female-headed households, raising concerns around the detention or capture of men and boys,” the office of the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq said on Wednesday.

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