Duhok – The Iraqi Army’s 16th Infantry Division, backed by Counter-Terrorism Units, gained more ground in Mosul city on Tuesday. Iraqi forces have secured dozens of neighborhoods in the war-torn city, forcing the Islamic State (ISIS) back towards the downtown core.
“After clashes with Daesh terrorists, our forces have liberated 24 neighborhoods and besieged several others,” the Iraqi Army General Command said, employing another acronym for ISIS.
The Iraq Army added that sappers have started dismantling the landmines and explosive devices which litter eastern Mosul. “All roads and buildings in the liberated neighborhoods are being cleared by our special forces,” it said.
While the situation remains fluid, Iraqi forces have the initiative. The US-led coalition has enabled their progress by launching airstrikes on ISIS fighting positions.
Mosul is the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq. The group took over the city in June 2014, and immediately afterward announced its self-proclaimed Caliphate.
“The Iraqi Army now controls 50% of Mosul city,” reported Haidar al-Khalidi, a journalist inside Mosul. “The army has also tightened the siege on the ISIS-held downtown districts.”
Systematic Use of Human Shields
The Islamic State has been impeding the Iraqi advance by embedding jihadists in civilian populations. Al-Khalidi told ARA News that human shields have deterred attacks in Mosul and “prevented the army from using its heavy weapons during the clashes.”
“ISIS is using residential buildings as bases for its attacks on the Iraqi forces. Many civilians are located in Mosul’s ISIS-held districts. [They’re] being used as human shields,” al-Khalidi reported.
“However, the army seems cautious and it’s trying to minimize civilian casualties,” the Iraqi journalist added.
Al-Khalidi’s account echoes those of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The human rights commissioner has received reports of “serious breaches” of international human rights and humanitarian law by ISIS.
According to Ravina Shamdasani, an OHCHR spokeswoman, ISIS has been installing rocket launchers and sniper nests on the rooftops of civilian homes, threatening to kill those who refuse to cooperate. She explained that these “families are effectively used as human shields, placed squarely in harm’s way, caught between ISIS and the Iraqi security force.”
Reporting by: Eyaz Ciziri and Ahmed Shiwesh | Source: ARA News