Male civilians fleeing Islamic State in the battle for Mosul are forced to do so shirtless to prove they are not wearing suicide vests.
The hard earned lesson even applies to young boys, whom ISIS have weaponized in the past. The battle for Mosul has taken a massive toll on the city’s civilian population. When operations began in October 2016 there were nearly 1.5 million civilians trapped inside the city. The Iraqi Security Forces decided it was too dangerous to allow civilians to leave the city, fearing that ISIS would disguise themselves and flee.
The Iraqi Security Forces are now applying this fear to civilians fleeing ISIS positions, forcing men to shed their clothes and run through checkpoints to reach them. These civilians must run through alleyways targeted by ISIS snipers, and could inadvertently be killed.
ISIS often uses the civilians to form a human shield around their positions, and indiscriminately explodes suicide bombs near Iraqi government forces. “It wasn’t anticipated that people would be stranded, caught inside East Mosul,” a World Health Organization representative told NPR.
Only about half the city has been retaken by the Iraqi Security Forces, and approximately 650,000 civilians are still trapped by ISIS. As the Iraqi Security Forces advance in the grueling battle, tens of thousands of civilians flee daily. Nearly 50,000 fled the city just last week.
The WHO’s top official in Iraq said urban combat typically inflicts 20 percent of those involved with bullet or fracture wounds that require quick stabilization. The Mosul battle has exceeded that expectation because of ISIS’s brutal tactics, and its use of civilians as shields.
Civilians casualties are only sure to rise as the battle drags on. The parts of Mosul the Iraqi Security Forces are now moving on have much narrower streets, which renders armored humvees useless in some areas. The humvees are the best and first line of defense against ISIS’s suicide vehicles.
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