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ISIS Soldiers Aren't The Only Ones Who Brutalized Mosul's Civilians, Report Says

The Iraqi army and U.S.-led coalition forces killed thousands in airstrikes.

11/07/2017 10:01 AM AEST | Updated 12/07/2017 2:55 AM AEST
Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
A view of western Mosul, Iraq, on May 29, 2017.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi declared victory in the city of Mosul on Sunday after a monthslong battle to regain control of the city from self-described Islamic State militants. 

Yet the siege resulted in a “civilian catastrophe” that included mass torture and death ― and both sides have blood on their hands, survivors recounted to Amnesty International in a report published on Monday.

“The scale and gravity of the loss of civilian lives during the military operation to retake Mosul must immediately be publicly acknowledged at the highest levels of government in Iraq and states that are part of the U.S.-led coalition,” said Lynn Maalouf, director of research for the Middle East at Amnesty International.

“Entire families have been wiped out, many of whom are still buried under the rubble today. The people of Mosul deserve to know, from their government, that there will be justice and reparation so that the harrowing impact of this operation is duly addressed.”

We did not have any options. If you stayed, you would die in your house from the fighting. If you tried to run away, they would catch you and kill you, and hang your body from the electricity pylon as a warning. Mosul resident, as told to Amnesty International

The actions that took place during ISIS’s takeover of Mosul amounted to war crimes, Amnesty argues.

Forced displacement became commonplace. ISIS fighters moved thousands of people from neighboring villages into conflict zones in western Mosul, according to the report. They then used these civilians as human shields, many people recounted.   

“[ISIS] said you must leave, or you will be killed,” said Abu Haidar, originally from the village of Tel Arbeed. “We were brought as human shields. They brought us to stand between them and the missiles.” 

The militant group also prevented people from escaping. Members of ISIS shut people into their homes by welding their doors shut, rigging booby traps at exits or summarily killing hundreds of people attempting to flee, the report said.

“We did not have any options. If you stayed, you would die in your house from the fighting. If you tried to run away, they would catch you and kill you, and hang your body from the electricity pylon as a warning,” one Mosul resident, identified only as Hasan, told Amnesty International.

Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
Civilians displaced by fighting between the Iraqi forces and Islamic State flee al-Zanjili district in Mosul, Iraq on June 10, 2017. 

But ISIS fighters weren’t the only perpetrators of crimes against civilians. Members of the U.S.-led coalition working to fight ISIS would launch airstrikes on ISIS-controlled areas of Mosul that were full of noncombatants, thanks to ISIS’s campaign to displace people from their villages, Amnesty International said. Civilians would often find themselves in the crosshairs of explosions. 

A U.S. airstrike in March, intended to kill two ISIS snipers, ended up killing 105 civilians, even though civilians are supposed to be protected under international law.

Between January and mid-May 2017, Amnesty International researchers documented 45 attacks that killed 426 civilians and injured more than 100. The actual death toll is likely much higher than that. 

Airwars, an independent monitoring group, estimates that at least 7,200 civilians died in airstrikes since the beginning of the campaign to retake the city last October.

“Military planners should have taken extra care in the manner in which they used their weapons to ensure that these attacks were not unlawful,” Maalouf said.

See more photos from the battle for Mosul below. 

  • Zohra Bensemra / Reuters
    A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter looks over as he stands on the top of a humvee in front of an Islamic State militants' position outside the town of Naweran near Mosul, Iraq on October 20, 2016. 
  • Zohra Bensemra / Reuters
    Newly displaced people wait to receive food supplies at a processing center for displaced people In Qayyara, south of Mosul,  October 21, 2016. 
  • Azad Lashkari / Reuters
    Smoke rises at Islamic State militants' positions in the town of Naweran, near Mosul on October 23, 2016. 
  • Zohra Bensemra / Reuters
    An Iraqi soldier stands next to a detained man accused of being an Islamic State fighter at a check point in Qayyara, south of Mosul on October 30, 2016. 
  • Mohammed Salem / Reuters
    An Iraqi father (L) mourns the death of his son, who was killed during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul on Dec. 1, 2016. 
  • Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
    People run in panic after a coalition airstrike hit Islamic State fighters positions on November 17, 2016. 
  • Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters
    A member of Iraqi rapid response forces holds a flower during battle with Islamic State militants on Jan. 4, 2017. 
  • Ahmed Saad / Reuters
    Displaced people, who fled Islamic State militants, cross the bridge in the Al-Muthanna neighborhood of Mosul on January 15, 2017. 
  • Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
    American army personnel gather at the University of Mosul during a battle with Islamic State militants in on January 18, 2017. 
  • Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
    A displaced Iraqi boy holds a white flag as his family flees during the battle between Iraqi rapid response forces and Islamic State militants at the Tigris river frontline on January 25, 2017. 
  • Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
    People who are trying to escape from Mosul walk in front of an Islamic State fighter on February 28, 2017. 
  • Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
    An Iraqi special forces soldier fires at a drone operated by Islamic State militants on March 4, 2017.
  • Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
    A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an Islamic State-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle on March 4, 2017. 
  • Suhaib Salem / Reuters
    A displaced Iraqi woman reacts as she waits in a street for a truck to carry her to a safe place, as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, on March 8, 2017. 
  • Suhaib Salem / Reuters
    A displaced Iraqi girl cries before entering Hamam al-Alil camp on March 10, 2017. 
  • Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters
    Iraqi rapid response members fire a missile against Islamic State militants on March 11, 2017.
  • Marko Djurica / Reuters
    People walk in front of the remains of the University of Mosul, which was burned and destroyed during a battle with Islamic State militants on April 10, 2017. a
  • Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
    Ameen Mukdad, a violinist from Mosul who lived under ISIS's rule for two and a half years where they destroyed his musical instruments, performs at Nabi Yunus shrine in eastern Mosul on April 19, 2017. 
  • Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
    Cartoon characters defaced by Islamic State militants are seen at a children's hospital on April 26, 2017. 
  • Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
    A member of the Iraqi Federal Police throws a hand grenade during clashes with the Islamic State fighters on April 29, 2017. 
  • Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
    Displaced Iraqis from Mosul wait to cross the Tigris by boat after the bridge had been temporarily closed, at the village of Thibaniya, south of Mosul on May 3, 2017. 
  • Danish Siddiqui / Reuters
    Members of Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces look at the positions of Islamic State militants on May 15, 2017. 
  • Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters
    A view of a part of western Mosul on May 29, 2017. 
  • Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters
    The shadow of a member of the Iraqi Army's 9th Armoured Division is seen as he opens a steel gate to a room used as a cell for men, inside a compound used as a prison by Islamic State militants on June 6, 2017. 
  • Ahmed Saad / Reuters
    Members of the Iraqi army drop leaflets over the old city of Mosul on June 18, 2017. 
  • Erik de Castro / Reuters
    An Iraqi soldier from the 9th Armoured Division gives drops of water to a dehydrated child rescued earlier by soldiers at the frontline on June 13, 2017. 
  • Erik de Castro / Reuters
    A destroyed al-Hadba minaret at Grand al-Nuri Mosque, left, is pictured through a hole at the Iraqi-held position at the Old City in Mosul on June 27, 2017. 
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