Mosul offensive halted after scores of civilians killed

Civil defence officials and residents say civilians were killed by coalition air strikes.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Federal police members carry their weapons as they attempt to break into the densely populated Old City of Mosul in Iraq during a battle against Daesh on March 19, 2017.

Updated Mar 27, 2017

Iraqi government forces have halted the ongoing offensive to recapture western Mosul from Daesh militants on Saturday due to the high rate of civilian casualties, a security forces spokesperson said.

The move came after the United Nations expressed profound concern on Saturday over reports of an incident on March 17 that killed dozens of people in the Daesh-held Al Jadida district of Mosul where the US-led coalition forces launched air strikes.

"The recent high death toll among civilians inside the Old City forced us to halt operations to review our plans," a Federal Policde spokesperson said on Saturday.

"It's a time for weighing new offensive plans and tactics. No combat operations are to go on," the spokesperson added.

TRT World's Ben Said reports.

Air strikes on Mosul

Civil defence officials and residents say scores of civilians were killed by two air strikes that reportedly triggered a major explosion.

A local lawmaker and two residents said the air strikes may have detonated an explosive-laden truck belonging to Daesh, destroying buildings in the densely populated area.

Civil Defence chief Brigadier Mohammed al Jawari told reporters on Thursday that rescue teams had recovered 40 bodies from the wreckage of the buildings.

The US-led coalition is investigating the reports.

Civilians flee western half of the city

Residents in western Mosul are in a catch 22.

If they try to escape, they could be used as human shields by militants, who also open fire on those attempting to flee.

If they remain, they are at risk of dying under the air strikes.

"The Daesh terrorist organisation is seeking to stop the advance of the Iraqi forces in Mosul at any cost, and it is gathering civilians ... and using them as human shields," Nawfal Hammadi, the governor of Nineveh said.

Aid agencies say as many as 600,000 civilians remain in the western half of the city.

Residents say there is a massive shortage of water, electricity and food in the city.

New tactics in Mosul

Iraqi military said on Friday that they would deploy new tactics in a fresh push against Daesh after advances slowed in the campaign to drive the militants out of their last stronghold.

Iraq will open up another front and isolate Mosul's Old City, where they have been fiercely battling militants, a US deputy commanding general for the coalition said.

The US-backed operation to drive Daesh out of Mosul, now in its sixth month, has recaptured most of the city.

Mosul's entire eastern side and about half of its western side is under Iraqi control.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies