Saturday, November 12, 2016

Equal Opportunity Atrocities

The operation to seize Mosul from ISIL fighters entered its fourth week  [Thaier Al-Sudaini/Reuters]
"Men in federal police uniform have carried out multiple unlawful killings, apprehending and then deliberately killing in cold blood residents in villages south of Mosul."
"Deliberately killing captives and other defenceless individuals is prohibited by international humanitarian law and is a war crime."
"It is crucial at this point, as the operation is ongoing, and Iraqi authorities are effectively taking control of these areas, to ensure that trust is maintained in the civilian population, and one of the ways to do that is to investigate these kinds of reports."
A soldier from the Iraqi Special Forces 2nd division guards two suspected ISIS fighters found hiding in a house as they were pushing through the eastern Samah area. A soldier from the Iraqi Special Forces 2nd division guards two suspected ISIS fighters found hiding in a house as they were pushing through the eastern Samah area. Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research, Amnesty's International, Beirut  A soldier from the Iraqi Special Forces 2nd division guards two suspected ISIS fighters found hiding in a house as they were pushing through the eastern Samah area.
A group of ten men evidently held aloft a white flag, lifting their garments indicating none were wearing explosive belts. A 16-year-old boy was among them. And they surrendered themselves, as civilians fleeing embattled Mosul, to combatants in Iraqi federal police uniforms. According to Amnesty International, the police took them to a desert area to beat them unmercifully, setting one man's beard on fire. These were few among many that Amnesty reported having been killed by Iraqi police.

One man who had resisted the Islamic State's roundup of civilians from towns and villages surrounding Mosul, to usher them into the city to be used as human shields, remained behind in the Shura area. He was later found dead from gunshot wounds to his chest and chin, in the wake of government forces moving in to the town; additional accusations against the Iraqi military levelled by the human rights group based in the United Kingdom. 

These accounts certainly advance the concerns of sectarian violence that will be unleashed with the eventual regaining of Mosul from ISIL.

And then there are the reports from the United Nations human rights group in Geneva, in possession of a video showing four children between ten to 14 years of age referred to as "sons of the Caliphate", associated with, trained by Islamic State, as a junior component comprised of teens or those younger, to carry out atrocities in the name of the Caliphate. The video showed these children shooting four civilians near the Tigris River, who were accused of 'disloyalty'.

There has been a reported upsurge in Islamic State court executions in and around Mosul in the past weeks. ISIL jihadis in one massacre shot 40 civilians whom they dressed in orange outfits with red characters marked "traitors and agents of the I.S.F." (Iraqi Security Forces), in Mosul. The bodies were strung up on electricity poles in an obvious message to the city's occupants. The following day 20 civilians were shot to death at a military base in the city's north, also strung up with signage offering "used cellphones to leak information to the I.S.F."

When the battle for Mosul first commenced the tens of thousands of security force members edged fairly swiftly forward as they cleared numerous nearby villages defended by Islamic State jihadis, but mostly void of civilians who had been moved to Mosul so there was no fear that government forces would encounter civilians when they opposed the Islamic State fighters. In the days to follow once the counterterrorism forces entered the city from the east, fighting has slowed their advance as house-to-house encounters through areas of civilian homes are encountered. 

And while about 48,000 people have so far been displaced according to figures produced by the World Health Organization, as fighting migrates to the more populated city areas across the Tigris on the west of Mosul, an estimated million people remain as residents of the city. Where, according to insider reports, Islamic State has built elaborate defences, including artillery pieces set up on the banks of the Tigris. 

A single survivor among 50 former Iraqi security forces members abducted by ISIL, brought to Mosul airport and shot to death, was the source of information given to the United Nations, after he feigned death, escaped and made his way out of Mosul. The mass grave uncovered by Iraqi troops in the town of Hamam al-Alil, one among many sites of large-scale killings, contained an estimated one hundred corpses. The disposal of bodies by ISIL included throwing them down wells and into the Tigris.
Members of the Iraqi police tried to pull a body from a mass grave discovered in Hamam al-Alil on Monday.  Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Not only have the Islamic State jihadis accelerated the training of boys as junior members of ISIL, using them to commit atrocities and filming the results for maximum impact on distribution to western sources, but abducted women, many of them members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority have been brought into the city for distribution among ISIL fighters as sex slaves. Their plight and their desperate fate has been under-reported and under-played as a horrendous human rights abuse for far too long.

There has been an increase in the number of boys roaming the streets of Mosul, furnished with rifles and swords by Islamic State. The UN reported accounts of ISIL fighters using chemical weapons and chemical agents such as chlorine gas against advancing Iraqi and Kurdish troops. The discovery by Iraqi forces on entering the city of large quantities of sulfur and ammonia stockpiled in civilian areas of Mosul lend credence to those reports. 
Odd Anderson : Getty Images

So the fighting to retake Mosul is in full swing, but by all accounts the recovery of the city will not be accomplished without great sacrifice. How many civilians will be sacrificed in the process at the hands of Islamic State, through their proximity to the fighting and the carnage that ensues, and alternately, to revenge killings of Sunni Iraqis by Shiite militias will be anyone's guess. But pro-government forces are targeting local Sunnis accusing them of supporting Islamic State.

Zeid Ra'ad, the UN human rights chief, issued a statement demanding emergency action by the government of Iraq for the protection of fleeing or freed Mosul residents in areas held by the Islamic State. He spoke in utter outrage at the "numbing and intolerable" suffering inflicted on civilians by the unfolding conflict. It has never been otherwise during conflict; combatants have their roles, and civilians become mass casualties.


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