Mosul battle: US says IS using human shields
Jihadists were trapping Mosul’s civilians to use as human shields, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, as US President Barack Obama warned of ‘significant’ potential displacement as the offensive for the Iraqi city progresses.
With the battle for Mosul raging, US officials said they expected to militants of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) to use crude chemical weapons, although they added that the group’s technical ability to develop such weapons was highly limited.
Authorities and aid agencies were bracing for a massive flow of civilians fleeing the northern Iraqi city as the fight to seize the last remaining IS stronghold in the country progresses.
The battle, which began on Monday, has so far focused on the villages surrounding Iraq’s second-largest city, most of which are traditionally Kurdish.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Isil militants had for weeks kept Mosul`s estimated population of 1.5 million from escaping, with the start of the offensive offering them no respite.
‘We know they are being used as human shields, absolutely,’ Captain Davis said. ‘They are being held there against their will. We have not seen any change in the last day of people leaving or fleeing.’
Although there has been no mass exodus of civilians so far, Mr Obama warned of ‘significant’ displacement in the coming weeks, saying the United Nations and other aid groups were ready to respond.
‘We have put together plans and infrastructure for dealing with a potential humanitarian crisis that are as extensive as the military plans,’ Mr Obama told reporters.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said an estimated 200,000 people were expected to be displaced in the first weeks of the offensive, growing to as many as one million under a worst-case scenario.
For now at least, Iraqi authorities and the US-led coalition want civilians to stay put, fearing they will be executed if they are caught leaving.