Daesh killing civilians in Mosul to deter support for army

Iraqi officials say Daesh are using 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.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A member of the Iraqi federal police force launches a mortar during an operation against Daesh in Qayyara, south of Mosul.

Daesh has killed 21 civilians in Mosul it accused of collaborating with an internationally-backed security force as it fights to hold on to its last bastion of power in Iraq's second largest city.

Iraqi officials say Daesh is using 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.

A major operation by the Iraqi Armed Forces, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Popular Mobilisation Forces backed by an international coalition was launched on October 17, after the Iraqi government resolved to regain control and restore its writ in Mosul.

The campaign, consisting of a 100,000-strong army, 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.

Iraqi military estimates put the number of Daesh gunmen in the city at 5,000 to 6,000.

A bomb hits a Daesh position in the town of Naweran near Mosul, Iraq. (Reuters)

Iraqi Armed Forces are trying to consolidate gains made in the east of the city and are yet to enter the northern or southern neighbourhoods of Mosul.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters are supporting them on the eastern and northern fronts, while the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces are battling west of the city.

Kurdish peshmerga forces in the east of Mosul are advancing towards Daesh positions. (Reuters)

The killing of civilians, 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.

Daesh defences were breached in the east of the city two weeks ago.

But Iraqi forces faced resistance from Daesh who have deployed suicide car bombs, snipers and waves of counter-attacks.

They have been fighting in a dozen of the roughly 50 neighbourhoods on the eastern side of the city, which is divided by the Tigris River running through its centre.

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter shoots during an operation to attack Daesh in the town of Naweran, near Mosul, Iraq. (Reuters)

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 Daesh gunmen 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 internationally-backed coalition who are assisting with air strikes and soldiers on the ground, who are officially designated as advisers.

Australian Brigadier-General Roger Noble, asked about Maan's comments, 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 said at the news conference at the Qayyara military base south of Mosul which is the main base of the 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."

955 Daesh Gunmen Killed

Maan said so far 955 Daesh gunmen had been killed and 108 captured on the southern front lines alone.

He did not give a toll for the campaign overall -- for security forces, civilians or for fDaesh fighters.

In an online statement, Daesh said it killed 412 Iraqi government and Kurdish fighters during the fourth week of the battle.

On the southern front, Human Rights Watch said that Iraqi soldiers, militiamen and civilians had mutilated the bodies of at least five Daesh fighters.

Thousands Displaced

More than 56,000 people have been displaced because of the fighting from villages and towns around the city to government-held areas, according to UN estimates.

The figure does not include the tens of thousands of people rounded up in villages around Mosul and forced to accompany Daesh fighters to cover their retreat towards the city.