First 900 civilians flee embattled Mosul, report says

Casey Mills
October 20, 2016

This has prompted fears that the militants will use the civilians as human shields by moving into their neighbourhoods as Iraqi forces get closer to Mosul.

ISIL forces are believed to be vastly outnumbered, with the United States military calculating up to 4,500 fighters in and around Mosul, compared with an estimated 30,000 Iraqi army troops, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Sunni tribal forces.

Mosul, the country's second city, was seized by ISin 2014.

Nevertheless, observers still raise concerns over the Mosul operation - just last week footage emerged of Qais al-Khazaali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, vowing that the upcoming battle would be "revenge for Hussein", a historic parallel the symbolism of which many Sunnis would regard as ominous.

But if the U.S. can guide the defeat of the so-called Islamic State in Mosul and reintegrate the Sunni stronghold into Iraqi national political and economic life, it could be a powerful statement. They also said that the group could possibly deploy chemical attacks, which they have allegedly used against Kurdish fighters.

US President Barack Obama said that the fight in Mosul will be a tough one but the Islamists "will be defeated in Mosul".

Government and Kurdish forces are still between 30 and 40 km (19 and 25 miles) from the city.

Some families recovering their freedom from ISIS for the first time in more than two years cautiously approached security forces waving white flags.

Smoke rises from Islamic state positions after an airstrike by coalition forces in Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016.

The announcement came despite warnings from human rights groups that PMF involvement could ignite sectarian violence.

A major worldwide human rights organisation released a scathing report yesterday against both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), levelling allegations against both that they have been persecuting Iraq's Sunni Arab community.

ISIL snipers posed danger to Iraqi forces trying to advance towards Mosul as the coalition air strikes pounded Hamdaniya.

The U.N in July said it had a list of more than 640 Sunni Muslim men and boys reportedly abducted by a Shi'ite militia in Falluja, a former militant stronghold west of Baghdad, and about 50 others who were summarily executed or tortured to death.

Amnesty laid the blame for the abuses not only at the door of Shia militias, largely organised under the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), but also blamed the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi anti-terror force withdrew from the village of al-Houd outside Mosul, a move which left the Kurdish Peshmerga no option but to stop its sweep of the villages around the city or expose their flanks to ISIS suicide and auto bomb assaults.

Many civilians have been able to flee the wider Mosul area to safer areas, with some desperate enough to seek refuge in neighboring war-torn Syria.

Save the Children said on Wednesday about 5,000 people, mostly women and children, had arrived at the Al Hol camp in Syria in the last 10 days.

"Any attempt to cross the border is an attack on the sovereignty of Syria ... and would be dealt with all forces available", the army statement said.

Other reports by MyHealthBowl

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