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Mosul residents caught in IS deathtrap of starvation, bombs

Iraqis evacuate their homes as Iraqi forces advance in northwestern Mosul. [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 May, 2017

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Islamic State group fighters are booby-trapping homes with civilians still inside and welding doors shut on starving families in a desperate last stand in the battle for Mosul.

Islamic State group fighters are booby-trapping homes with civilians still inside and welding doors shut on starving families in a desperate last stand in the battle for Mosul.

Iraqi forces are tightening the noose around Islamic State group militants holed up in the Old City, having recaptured another neighbourhood of western Mosul this week.

Residents say the group is resorting to increasingly brutal tactics against the civilian population, with around 250,000 people trapped in the Old City and IS-controlled areas.

Trapped

"Daesh [IS] came to our house and welded the door. They gave us a small amount of water and a white cloth and said: 'Here's a shroud for you'," said one resident of the Zinjili neighbourhood.

The woman sent a voice message to relatives living in eastern Mosul, which has been retaken by Iraqi forces. She is now trapped with her four children and husband in their home with no food.

After months of fighting, conditions for civilians in the Old City of west Mosul are dire, but the Islamic State group is deliberately preventing residents from fleeing.

"They have been doing this lately. When they suspect a family of intending to escape to the security forces, they lock them in," Abu Rami, 35, told AFP by phone.

"They have detained several families like this here, and in some cases they weld the doors to be sure," he said.

Most houses in Mosul have barred windows or are built around walled courtyards with a single entry and exit point to the street.

"Those families have a choice of dying of hunger, disease or shelling."

A civil activist from Mosul, Abdulkarim al-Obeidi, put the number of IS fighters left in west Mosul at around 600, and they are resorting to using the population as human shields as part of their defence strategy.

"Daesh [IS] is locking doors on families inside those areas that have not yet been liberated. They are detaining people," he said.

"[The] members have everything they need because they raided people's homes and took their food stockpiles," Obeidi said.

Daesh [IS] came to our house and welded the door. They gave us a small amount of water and a white cloth and said: 'Here's a shroud for you'.
- East Mosul resident


He is advocating coalition or Iraqi airdrops to save thousands from starving to death.

A councillor for the Nineveh province, where Mosul is located, said that hunger is killing more people in the city than shelling or fighting.

"[IS] wants to sow terror among civilians with this filthy tactic of welding doors shut on people," Hossameddin al-Abbar said.

"There are people dying of hunger and disease now, especially children and elderly people."

Booby traps

The Islamic State group has long booby-trapped buildings as a weapon against advancing government forces but is now using the deadly tactic to prevent civilians from fleeing.

Since the launch of a military operation in northwestern Mosul this week, the Iraqi army has found at least eight booby-trapped homes with families trapped inside.

"The Daesh [IS] gangs are booby-trapping houses with people inside them," Major General Thamer Abu Turab told an AFP reporter in west Mosul.

Even without the use of IS deterrents, most civilians are too scared to flee the city and stay hunkered down with whatever supplies they have.

"Behind the walls on the streets, there are rooms and cellars packed with people too scared to move. And hunger is killing people now," Abu Imad, a former restaurant employee who lives with his family of five in the Zinjili neighbourhood says.

"I know some people have started eating plants and are boiling paper. At this rate you will soon see people eating cats and dogs."

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led airstrikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

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