Iraq News

Mosul escapees recount ISIS use of residents as human shields

By Khalid al-Taie


An Iraqi soldier embraces a Mosul resident who had managed to escape the city unharmed despite the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' holding civilians as hostages in the few areas still under its control. [Photo courtesy of the Federal Police Command]

Iraqis who fled Mosul told Diyaruna that thousands of civilians are still being held as hostages in western Mosul by "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) fighters.

Residents are given the choice between dying in the battles as "martyrs", or getting killed by ISIS, they said.

Omar Ghassan, 28, was among many who fled al-Islah al-Zerai neighbourhood on May 12th before the security forces retook it from ISIS.

He told Diyaruna that the gunmen had held his family and other families hostage in their homes, using them as human shields.

Facing two choices

"They threatened to kill us if we ran away or did not obey their orders," he said.

"They tried to shield themselves by using us," he said, noting that the group is hiding inside private homes and using the rooftops as sniper positions.

ISIS told the residents that heaven awaits them if they died while protecting the militants. And if they chose to join the battle with the group, then they would die as "martyrs", Ghassan said.

"They gave us two choices -- either we oppose them and get killed at their hands, or we support them and die" in the battles, he said.

"But eventually, the snipers of our security forces hunted them down and a new life was written for us," Ghassan said.

Abu Ahmed, 46, who asked to use a pseudonym for safety reasons, is another survivor from al-Islah al-Zerai. He told Diyaruna that if Iraqi forces had not intervened in time, he and his six family members would now be dead.

"They [ISIS elements] were about to get rid of us after they had taken us as hostages," he said. "They did not want to leave us alive during their manoeuvers as they fought and moved from house to house."

"God saved us from a certain death, and destroyed the terrorists at the hands of our courageous soldiers," Abu Ahmed said.

Weakened combat effectiveness

ISIS now controls about 5% of west Mosul -- just a handful of neighbourhoods around the Old City.

Some 300,000 civilians are still trapped in the city, some of whom refuse to leave their homes.

Kurdistan Democratic Party in Mosul media officer Said Mamuzini said that the ongoing operations in the city "eliminated most of the group's fighters and destroyed all their resources of weapons and ammunition in addition to their headquarters".

But the gunmen "continue to pose a major threat to the civilians stranded under their grip", he told Diyaruna.

"Since the fighting began on the western side of Mosul, some 350 civilians have been killed as a result of being used as human shields [by ISIS]," he said.

On April 2nd, Iraqi forces found the bodies of 16 civilians, including women and children, executed by gunshots while trying to escape the Old City.

ISIS "allows itself to endanger innocent lives or kill them under any circumstance or excuse", security expert and former Interior Ministry official Jassim Hanoun told Diyaruna.

The group's elements are responsible for carrying out executions against civilians, and of using them as human shields and targeting them with car bombs as they flee, he said.

"Many victims" have fallen as a result of these attacks, Hanoun added.

After the liberation of Hawi al-Kanisa and 30 Tamuz neighbourhoods and Shikak al-Harmat area, ISIS elements were trapped in the Old City from all sides, he said.

"They currently do not have enough time to manoeuver and their combat effectiveness is diminishing," he said.

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The poll is unfortunately from a component that loves ISIS! It can't be imagined that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has gone to Iran!