Islamic State (ISIS) militants have forced about 1,500 families to retreat with them near Mosul, as Iraqi forces push ahead with their offensive to drive the militants out of their stronghold, the U.N. human rights commission said Tuesday.
ISIS militants also abducted 295 former Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) members from villages on the outskirts of the city, Reuters reports.
“People forcibly moved or abducted, it appears, are either intended to be used as human shields or — depending on their perceived affiliations — killed,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Speaking at a U.N. briefing in Geneva, Shamdasani said the abducted families, taken from Hammam al Alil town, were being taken to Mosul airport, adding that “[t]he fate of these civilians is unknown for the moment.”
A campaign by Iraqi government forces, Kurdish peshmerga and Shi’ite militias supported by U.S. air strikes to push ISIS out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is now in its fourth week. Mosul is the militant’s last major urban stronghold in Iraq.
ISIS fighters abducted about 100 former ISF officers on Nov. 3 from Mawaly village, about 12 miles west of Mosul, Reuters reports. Another 195 people were abducted last week from villages in Tal Afar district.
Reports of the discovery of a mass grave at an agricultural college in Hammam al Alil could not yet be confirmed.