Mosul – Iraqi special forces said Tuesday they had managed to evacuate 380 civilians from a neighborhood in western Mosul as operations against Islamic State militants approach their final stage.
A security source was quoted by Shafaaq News website saying that the army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service evacuated the civilians from Zanjili, one of a last three districts adjacent to IS’s last bastion in western Mosul: the Old City. Those included women, children and elders, said the source, adding that the evacuation happened after five hours of fighting.
Islamic State militants have faced accusations by Iraqi and United Nations officials, as well as local and world aid groups, of using civilians as human shields during the battle running in Mosul since October.
U.N. estimates put the number of civilians stranded at the battlefield in the Old City at 200.000, saying they suffer severe shortages in food and medicine.
According to news reports, IS had executed dozens of civilians in western Mosul for attempting to escape to security-held areas or acting as informants for the government troops.
Iraqi government troops regained control over eastern Mosul in January after three months of fighting. Operations for the western side of the city launched in mid February, and Iraqi generals say a few hundreds of IS fighters remain in the Old City as a last refuge.
The medieval Old City was the place where IS supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the group’s rule in Iraq in 2014.