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ISIS Has Killed Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul, U.N. Says

About 200,000 civilians were still trapped in desperate conditions in the old city of Mosul, targeted by jihadists and suffering heavy casualties from coalition bombing and artillery fire.

Iraqi forces had been advising Mosul residents to stay in their houses because of the street-by-street fighting and aerial bombing, but government aircraft have dropped leaflets in recent days urging residents of the old city to flee.

The United Nations reported that the Islamic State had shot and killed at least 231 civilians in the past two weeks, but Ms. Shamdasani said that many other people were missing and that the actual death toll was almost certainly higher.

Fighters killed 27 civilians in the Shifa area last month. On Saturday, they shot 41 more in the same neighborhood as they tried to reach positions held by advancing Iraqi forces, Ms. Shamdasani said.

Since Iraqi forces opened their campaign to retake western Mosul more than three months ago, the Islamic State has herded thousands of civilians into locations near the fighters’ positions to form a human shield.

The militants have also positioned snipers on rooftops to shoot residents who try to flee, along with other steps to prevent their escape.

Civilians who have managed to get out have told of fighters killing men who were planning to leave and shooting fugitives fleeing through the streets, Amnesty International reported on Thursday.

Ms. Shamdasani said that the Islamic State “is getting increasingly desperate and increasingly overwhelmed by Iraqi forces, and their response to this is to up the cost of trying to flee.”

In another episode at the end of May, Islamic State fighters locked nine civilians in a basement of a hospital. As government forces neared the hospital, the militants killed the civilians and then set fire to the building, Ms. Shamdasani said.

The mounting toll from Iraqi and coalition airstrikes prompted human rights organizations on Thursday to call on those forces to make greater efforts to avoid civilian casualties, and to halt the use of heavy weapons and munitions in densely populated areas.

The United Nations said it was investigating reports that airstrikes on Islamic State positions in the Zanjilly neighborhood of Mosul had killed as many as 80 civilians.

The episode is believed to be one of the worst of its kind since an airstrike in March hit a booby-trapped building where the Islamic State was keeping civilians, killing approximately 140 people.

Source: NYT > World

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