Dozens Of Civilians Killed Fleeing IS-Held Mosul District: Report
RFE/RL June 04, 2017
Reuters news agency is reporting that dozens of civilians have been killed in the past two days while fleeing a Mosul neighborhood held by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.
A Reuters TV crew on June 3 said the dead included men, women, and children, with their bodies laying on a street in Zanjili district, near the frontline between the militant fighters and Iraqi government forces.
Zanjili is one of the final three districts in Iraq's second-largest city not yet cleared of IS fighters.
On June 2, Iraqi forces said they had captured the Sihha district as U.S.-led forces battle in what they hope will be the final campaign to drive the militants out of Mosul, the group's last significant stronghold in Iraq.
After taking Sihha, Iraqi forces said they had reduced IS territory in the city to three districts along the Tigris River west bank – parts of Zanjili, the crowded Old City, and the medical sector of the city.
Dave Eubank from the Free Burma Rangers relief association, speaking from a building overlooking the Zanjili frontline, told Reuters that IS "has been shooting people escaping this area" for the past two days.
"I saw over 50 dead bodies yesterday," he said. "We worked with the Americans to get smoke and an Iraqi tank, and followed behind them and we rescued one little girl and one man. But there are still more."
Iraqi military officials have said they are moving closer to fully liberating Mosul.
Should they capture Mosul, it would represent a massive blow to the IS extremists. Mosul was the city where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his so-called "caliphate" nearly three years ago.
Backed by U.S. and coalition air support, Iraqi forces began the battle to liberate Mosul in October.
The eastern half of Mosul was retaken earlier this year, and troops are facing fierce IS resistance in more heavily populated west Mosul.
IS fighters captured Mosul in 2014 as they gained wide swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in battles against government troops.
However, U.S.-led coalition forces have made major gains against the group, both in Mosul and around the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last major IS stronghold in that country.
A U.S.-backed Syrian-Kurdish coalition in Syria said the campaign to liberate Raqqa will start in the next "few days," a spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on June 3.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and Iraqi News
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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