Daesh terrorists are using civilians as human shields in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul amid a major army offensive to liberate the strategic city from the Takfiri group, witnesses say.
Iraqi residents who managed to escape the Daesh-held areas told Middle East Eye that the militants have moved mortar batteries and fighters into civilian homes across the troubled region.
Most of them spoke of being locked in their homes, snipers hiding on their rooftops, and being forced to share their homes with terrorists.
Ahmed Salih Salih, a resident of Mosul who recently found safety in the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, said Daesh militants had placed mortar tubes next to civilian houses in anticipation of the arrival of Iraqi government forces.
Salih went on to say that several civilians have been killed as a result such tactics by Daesh militants. “My neighbors had a Dash mortar in their house and it was bombed. Three people were killed,” he said.
He is among one of an estimated 2,000 civilians who fled their homes when the Iraqi army liberated villages about 60 kilometers south of Mosul last month.
Muhannad al-Sabawi, another resident, said Daesh militants rounded up civilians and blended in when it was clear that Iraqi forces were closing in on his village.
“Daesh knew this and came and stayed in the houses with us,” said Sabawi, adding, “I asked one of them to leave because the army was targeting the house, but he refused. They forced us to stay indoors and said that if we went out they would kill us.”
In addition to that, the terrorist group has also planted mines on the outskirts of villages, resulting in a number of deaths as civilians try to flee.
Another young man said he lost his mother, sister and cousin to a mine as they fled their village at night.
“We couldn’t see them, it was raining and the grass was tall,” said the man, who did not want to be named.
He had been forced to leave his mother and cousin behind, but carried his sister hoping to find medical help. “I had to leave her when I realized she was dead,” added the witness.
Meanwhile, Kyle Marsh, a colonel in the US-led coalition forces, which have been carrying out an aerial offensive against what are claimed to be Daesh positions in Iraq, said that militants have been using civilians as a shield in violation of international laws on conflicts and wars.
“Daesh continues to use civilians and civilian infrastructure in violation of the Law of Armed Conflict as a means to protect themselves from ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and coalition airstrikes,” said Marsh.
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by gruesome violence ever since Daesh terrorists mounted their offensive in June 2014.
Daesh diversifying sources of income
In another development, Iraqi judicial authorities said Thursday that Daesh has been generating millions of dollars a month by running car dealerships and fishing in hundreds of lakes north of Baghdad generates.
“The terrorists’ current financing mechanism has changed from what it was” nearly two years ago, said a report by Iraq’s central court of investigation, quoting Judge Jabbar Abid al-Huchaimi.
“After the armed forces took control of several oil fields Daesh was using to finance its operations, the organization devised non-traditional ways of paying its fighters and financing its activities,” it added.
The report also notes that Iraqi owners fleeing the areas under attack abandoned their farms while others agreed to cooperate with Daesh to avoid being attacked.
According to a report released by the IHS Conflict Monitor in December last year, airstrikes carried out by Russia and the so-called anti-Daesh coalition led by the US have “significantly degraded the group’s refining capacity and ability to transport oil via tanker convoys.”
Russia began launching airstrikes, requested by the Syrian government, on Takfiri targets in Syria in late September.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Wednesday that his country is targeting the financial basis of the Daesh Takfiri group in Syria, including its oil trade, the terrorists’ main source of income.
Security experts once estimated the terrorist group’s annual income at USD 2.9 billion, much of it coming from oil and gas installations in Iraq and Syria.