By Tom Miles
GENEVA, June 13 (Reuters) - Hundreds of people were killed, many of them summarily executed, after Sunni Islamist militants overran the Iraqi city of Mosul this week, U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said on Friday..
Iraqi government forces had stopped people at checkpoints and prevented them fleeing Mosul as ISIL militants took it over, he said. Now ISIL was using its own checkpoints to hunt down anyone associated with the Iraqi government.
"The full extent of civilian casualties is not yet known but reports received by UNAMI, the U.N. mission in Iraq, to this point suggest that the number of people killed in recent days may run into the hundreds and the number of wounded is said to be approaching 1,000," he told a news briefing in Geneva.
UNAMI has its own network of contacts and had interviewed some of the 500,000 who fled Mosul, he said. A further 40,000 people were estimated to have fled from Tikrit and Samara, according to the International Organization for Migration.
"We've received reports of the summary execution of Iraqi army soldiers during the capture of Mosul and of 17 civilians in one particular street in Mosul city on June 11," Colville said.
"There was also the execution of a court employee in the Dawasa area in central Mosul and the execution of 12 people in Dawasa who were believed to have been serving with the Iraq security services or possibly with members of the police."
The "great majority" of the militants were Iraqis, Colville said, citing UNAMI reports.
Prisoners released by the militants from Mosul prison had been looking to exact revenge on those responsible for their incarceration and some went to Tikrit and killed seven former prison officers there, Colville said.
"We've also had reports suggesting that government forces have also committed excesses, in particular the shelling of civilian areas on 6 and 8 June in Mosul, resulting in a large number of civilian casualties," he said.
"There are claims that up to 30 civilians may have been killed during this shelling," he said.
"We also received reports that government forces were at one point not allowing people to leave from Mosul as they tried to do so and people were actually being turned back from checkpoints on the outskirts of the city." (Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
BEFORE YOU GO
06/14/2014 1:03 PM EDT
NYT: Baghdad Braces For Siege
The New York Times reports that Baghdad residents are preparing for insurgents to descend on the city, though Iraq's military says they're slowed the rebels' advance:
While some Baghdad residents scrambled to leave, hoarded food or rushed to join auxiliary militias to defend the city, the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and their allies halted their advance within a two-hour drive to the north, and there was no indication that they were seeking to push into Baghdad proper.
06/14/2014 12:38 PM EDT
U.S. Moves Aircraft Carrier
BREAKING: Pentagon orders aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush to Persian Gulf as President Obama weighs possible airstrikes in Iraq— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) June 14, 2014
06/14/2014 11:27 AM EDT
Iraqis Flock To Volunteer Against Insurgents
From the AP:
Hundreds of young Iraqi men gripped by religious and nationalistic fervor streamed into volunteer centers Saturday across Baghdad, answering a call by the country's top Shiite cleric to join the fight against Sunni militants advancing in the north.
Dozens climbed into the back of army trucks, chanting Shiite slogans and hoisting assault rifles, pledging to join the nation's beleaguered security forces to battle the Sunni group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has launched a lightning advance across the country.
Read more here.
06/14/2014 11:14 AM EDT
Iraqi Military Says It Has Slowed Islamist Rebels' Advance
A Sunni Islamist offensive threatening to dismember Iraq seemed to slow on Saturday after days of lightning advances as government forces reported regaining territory in counter-attacks, easing pressure on Baghdad's Shi'ite-led government.
As Iraqi officials spoke of wresting back the initiative against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant insurgents (ISIL), neighboring Shi'ite Iran held out the prospect of working with its longtime U.S. arch-enemy to help restore security in Iraq.
Read more here.
06/13/2014 3:34 PM EDT
'Early 2006 Again'
Martin Chulov writes from Iraq for the Guardian that this week's fighting has once again exposed the divisions among the country's different groups, as well as the divisive policies of its political leader Nuri al-Maliki.
Iraq has suddenly found itself in early 2006 again, in a week that has seen Sunni insurgents once more face off with Shia militias, a major city looted as an army stands by, and the two shrines whose destruction sparked the sectarian war again endangered. This, though, is a crisis like no other for Iraq, eclipsing even the blood-soaked and hopeless war years that pitched sects against each other and whittled out towns and cities. There is no occupying army to hold the country together this time. After the stunning capitulation at the hands of Sunni insurgents this week, there is barely a military left at all.
Go here to read the full report.
-- Eline Gordts
06/13/2014 3:09 PM EDT
PHOTO: Militants Destroy Iraq-Syria Border
This image posted on a militant news Twitter account on Thursday, June 12, 2014 shows militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant removing part of the soil barrier on the Iraq-Syria borders and moving through it. (AP Photo/albaraka_news)
06/13/2014 3:06 PM EDT
ISIS Fighters Accused Of Summary Executions
Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Friday that fighters of ISIS allegedly executed at least 15 civilians in northern Syria.
The executions reportedly took place in the village of al-Taliliya, near Ras al-‘Ayn, on May 29.
“While everyone is focused on ISIS’s advances in Iraq, they’re also committing atrocities in Syria, including gunning down civilians,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “ISIS flouts the law, executing civilians at will, while Russia and China paralyze UN Security Council action.”
Read the full announcement here.
-- Eline Gordts
06/13/2014 2:16 PM EDT
Pentagon Can't Confirm Iranian President
The Pentagon said on Friday it cannot confirm reports that members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard are fighting in Iraq. "I've seen the press reporting on that ... but I have nothing to confirm that there are Iranian special forces inside Iraq," spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said, according to Reuters.
Reports emerged on Thursday that Iranian special forces were helping Baghdad in fighting Islamist insurgents that have captures several cities in Iraq this week.
-- Eline Gordts
06/13/2014 1:21 PM EDT
UN Warns Of War Crimes
The United Nation warned on Friday war crimes may have possible been committed in Iraq.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned of "murder of all kinds" and other war crimes in the fast-deteriorating Iraqi war zone.
In a first estimate of the number of killed and wounded in the area, her office said the number of killed may run into the hundreds and the number of wounded could approach 1,000.
Pillay also shed some light on the brutalities occurring in Iraq, saying her office had received reports of militants rounding up and killing Iraqi army soldiers and 17 civilians in a single street in Mosul.
Her office said it has also learned of summary executions, rape, extrajudicial and reprisal killings, and about civilians being shelled as fighters from the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant overran a succession of major cities earlier in the week.
Deeply disturbing, she said, are reports that the fighters, including prisoners they had released from jails in Mosul and provided with arms, have been actively seeking out and sometimes killing soldiers, police and others. She said victims also included civilians, who the fighters believe are associated with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.
Pillay warned those fighting to abide by international law, which requires human treatment of members of armed forces who have laid down their arms. She also stressed that "murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture constitute war crimes."
"I am extremely concerned about the acute vulnerability of civilians caught in the cross-fire, or targeted in direct attacks by armed groups, or trapped in areas under the control of ISIL and their allies," Pillay said.
"And I am especially concerned about the risk to vulnerable groups, minorities, women and children," she said. "There will be particular scrutiny of the conduct of ISIL, given their well-documented record of committing grave international crimes in Syria."
Read more here.