According to a complaint from Amnesty International (AI), Iraqi government forces have killed and tortured civilians in the area around Mosul as they closed in on the Islamic State’s stronghold.
“Men in federal police uniform have carried out multiple unlawful killings, apprehending and then deliberately killing in cold blood residents in villages south of Mosul,” said Lynn Maalouf, deputy director of research at the Beirut office of Amnesty International, as quoted by Reuters.
According to AI’s report, as many as six people suspected of ties to the Islamic State (ISIS) have been found dead in districts surrounding Mosul. Incidents of beatings with cables and rifle butts were described, along with at least one decapitation.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) added that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are holding at least 37 suspected ISIS collaborators, without being allowed to contact their families. HRW expressed fears that these prisoners were at high risk of abuse.
The Iraqi and Kurdish governments denied both reports, with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi stating that local residents of the Mosul area had killed the ISIS members described by Amnesty International.
Abadi also charged that Amnesty was “spreading fear among Iraqis with its reports and would bear responsibility for displacement of people who might flee the city as a result.”
The Kurdish regional government said there had been some delays in notifying the families of prisoners, due to the strain on resources from battling ISIS, but none of the prisoners was being deliberately held incommunicado.
The Associated Press reported on Thursday that Iraq’s push into Mosul had “paused” after capturing “a sliver of territory in the city’s east” because fighting in densely populated areas meant the Iraqi troops could not rely on airstrikes and artillery as much. Also, it is reportedly taking time to consolidate the areas already captured from ISIS and cleanse them of booby traps and snipers.
The New York Times ran an article Thursday that said the social character of “once-tolerant” Mosul had been permanently ruined by the Islamic State’s occupation. Shiites, Sunnis, Yazidis, and Christians all said they were afraid to return to the city.
Many Christians fled soon after the American invasion in 2003 to escape both purges and Arab-Kurdish infighting, along with the dangers of a post-Saddam insurgency that used Mosul as a stronghold. According to the Times article, many displaced residents of Mosul fear the social stress between victims of the Islamic State and its collaborators will take a long time to heal, even after ISIS fighters have been driven from the city.