Sunday 4 December 2016

Isil captures 3,000 villagers fleeing Iraq

Tom Miles Beirut

Published 06/08/2016 | 02:30

Iraq refugees fleeing from Mosul Isil some time ago amid reports that some 3,000 refugees have been captured by the terror group. Photo: AP Photo
Iraq refugees fleeing from Mosul Isil some time ago amid reports that some 3,000 refugees have been captured by the terror group. Photo: AP Photo
An Isil fighter in in Mosul. Photo: Reuters

ISIL fighters may have captured up to 3,000 fleeing Iraqi villagers and subsequently executed 12 of them, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said in a daily report on events in Iraq.

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The report followed a statement on Thursday from the Iraqi Observatory for Human rights, which said about 1,900 civilians had been captured by an estimated 100-120 Isil fighters, who were using people as shields against attacks by Iraqi Security Forces. Tens of civilians had been executed, and six burnt.

"UNHCR has received ­reports that ISIL captured on 4 August up to 3,000 IDPs (internally ­displaced people) from villages in Hawiga District in Kirkuk Governorate trying to flee to Kirkuk city. Reportedly, 12 of the IDPs have been killed in captivity," the UNHCR report said.

The United States is leading a military coalition conducting air strikes against Isil in Iraq and Syria, where the group seized broad swathes of territory in 2014. The fighting had displaced 3.4 million people in Iraq by July 2016.

Isil's grip on some towns has been broken, but it still controls its de facto capitals of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Last month the UN appealed for $284 million to prepare aid for an assault on Mosul, as well as up to $1.8 billion to deal with the aftermath.

It has so far received nothing in response, according to the UN Financial Tracking Service.

UNHCR has begun building a site northeast of Mosul for 6,000 people and is preparing another northwest of the city for 15,000, a fraction of those expected to need shelter.

"Although local authorities have suggested that returns to Falluja could begin in September, the Ministry of Migration and Displacement has stated that it may take another three months before conditions are conducive for large scale returns," it said.

But Iraqi authorities reported 300,000 displaced people had returned to Ramadi district, UNHCR said. Iraqi forces declared victory over the jihadist group in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, in December, but later called a halt to returns after dozens of civilians were killed by mines.

UNHCR officials in Geneva and Baghdad said yesterday that they were still trying to verify the information.

Isil fighters have repeatedly prevented civilians from fleeing territory that the militant group holds, using them as human shields against airstrikes. Iraqi government ground forces still rely heavily on US-led coalition airstrikes in the fight against Isil. When Isil first overran much of north and western Iraq in 2014, the extremists took thousands of women and children hostage for use as slaves or child soldiers.

Despite a string of defeats in Iraq and Syria, Isil is still estimated to hold thousands of women and children captive, according to a UN report.

Meanwhile, French police have arrested an Afghan asylum seeker who was suspected of plotting a terror attack on Paris to be carried out within days.

The man, who requested asylum in France last November, was arrested on a street in the northern 18th arrondissement after police officers recognised him, France Info radio said.

News of the arrest came just as it was announced that one of Europe's biggest annual flea markets, in the northern French city of Lille, had been cancelled over security fears. It is the latest event to be called off in a string of ­cancellations of traditional and cultural festivities across France following last month's Bastille Day truck massacre in Nice.

The death toll from the Nice attack rose to 85 yesterday. The latest death was that of a man whose wife and son died when a Tunisian mowed down a crowd on the Promenade des Anglais with his lorry.

Elsewhere, it has emerged that some of the plotters in the terror attacks claimed by Isil in Paris last November and in Brussels in March partly financed themselves with payments from Belgium's social welfare system.

Salah Abdeslam, who survived the Paris attacks that killed 130 people and is now awaiting trial in a French jail, collected €19,000 unemployment benefits from January 2014 to October 2015.

His brother Brahim Abdeslam, who blew himself up ­outside a Paris restaurant, claimed benefits until 2013. Isil brought out a manual in 2015 manual called 'How to Survive in the West: A Mujahid Guide' in which it recommends, in a section titled 'Easy Money ­Ideas', that if you can claim extra benefits from a government, then do so.

Irish Independent

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