The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group are holding more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians as human shields in the Old City of western Mosul as government forces are pushing to drive the extremists out of their last bastion in the city.
“More than 100,000 civilians may still be held in the Old City. We know that Daesh moved them with them as they left… locations where the fighting was going on. These civilians are basically held as human shields in the Old City,” the presiding UNHCR representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva on Friday.
He added that there is virtually no food, water, electricity and fuel in the area, and civilians are “living in increasingly worsening situation of penury and panic because they are surrounded by fighting on every side.”
Geddo further noted that Daesh snipers try to kill anyone trying to leave the militant-held Old City of Mosul, stressing that the small number of civilians who manage to escape are “deeply traumatized.”
The senior US official said the UNHCR has so far provided assistance to more than 500,000 internally displaced people, and is helping those returning to liberated neighborhoods in Mosul.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have managed to liberate two villages west of Mosul, located some 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of the capital Baghdad.
Commander of Nineveh Liberation Operation, General Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah, announced in a statement on Friday that soldiers from the 15th Division of the Iraqi Army had retaken the villages of al-Zanazal and Abu Kaddour as well as a church east of the al-Kasik-al-Mahalibiyah road, and raised the Iraqi flag over several buildings there.
Iraqi government forces also targeted a gathering of Daesh militants in al-Shifa district, leaving dozens of the extremists dead and injured.
Separately, Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Shaker Jawdat said army troops are engaged in fierce skirmishes with Daesh Takfiris in western Mosul, and have managed to control 30 percent of al-Shifa district.
“Daesh terror group is holed up in alleys and booby-trapped mined buildings, and using distant fire, while the Iraqi forces are deploying ground bumpers, intensifying their aerial monitoring, and bombing enemy barracks with artillery rounds and rockets,” Jawdat said in the statement.
The high-ranking Iraqi security official pointed out that government forces have killed dozens of militants in al-Shifa and Bab al-Toub neighborhoods, and evacuated hundreds of civilians through humanitarian corridors to safe zones.