IS Kills Civilians in Mosul to Deter Support for Army

Iraqi special forces soldiers walk in Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 15.Iraqi special forces soldiers walk in Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 15.

The self-styled Islamic State terrorist group has summarily killed 21 civilians in Mosul it accused of collaborating with US-backed security forces, which said their offensive to recapture the city from the militants had made further advances.

The killings, reported on Tuesday by a medical source, indicate that the ultra-hardline group has maintained its ability to police Mosul, more than four weeks after the start of the offensive on the northern Iraqi city, Reuters reported.

The campaign that began on Oct. 17 is the biggest military operation in Iraq in more than a decade of turmoil unleashed by the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Counter-terrorism forces breached IS defenses in the east of the city two weeks ago but have faced resistance from the militants who have deployed suicide car bombs, snipers and waves of counter-attacks. They have been fighting in a dozen of the roughly 50 neighborhoods on the eastern side of the city, which is divided in two by the Tigris River running through the center.

Interior Ministry Spokesman Saad Maan said on Tuesday that Iraqi forces in the east of the city, which also include part of a tank division, had dislodged IS fighters from a third of the eastern side of the city.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with Iraqi officials and officers from the western coalition that is backing them with airstrikes and soldiers on the ground, who are officially designated as advisers.

Asked about Maan’s comments, Australian Brigadier-General Roger Noble said, “The way I’d describe it is they’re well into the city on the eastern side”.

“We haven’t had out the measuring stick and done the percentages,” he told Reuters at the Qayyara military base south of Mosul, which is the main base of the military campaign.

“Once you get into the city and the enemy being the way they are, with civilians, it’s a difficult fight, but fundamentally it’s on track,” he said.

Iraqi officials say the militants have used the city’s more than 1 million remaining residents as human shields, firing from rooftops of inhabited houses and using a network of tunnels to launch ambushes in the midst of residential areas.

  Swifter Killings

While the presence of civilians has slowed the advance, Iraqi officials say some of their operations have been assisted by information provided by residents about IS military positions in the city.

Trying to stop the flow of any information out of Mosul, the militants have cracked down on communications, banning the use of mobile phones and also confiscating satellite dishes to prevent people from seeing the progress made by Iraqi forces.

Most of those killed in the last three days were accused of cooperating with the Iraqi Army, said the medical source who saw the list of 21 names and was briefed on the charges they faced.

The city’s forensic medical department was notified of the killings, the source said, but this time no bodies emerged, unlike last week when 20 corpses were strung up across the city in a public warning against helping the army.

The militants, who have ruled Mosul since they swept through northern Iraq two years ago, are imposing a ruthless authority across the city, crushing dissent, killing opponents and forcing people to follow their strict interpretation of religious law.

Residents say most victims are disposed of in mass graves outside Mosul because the militants deem their opponents apostates unworthy of religious funerals. Families only learn the fate of relatives from lists delivered to medics at the morgue.

Before the offensive started, people detained by IS in Mosul were investigated for months. Now they were held for as little as two weeks before being released or killed—either shot, their throats slit, or put to death by other methods, the source said.

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