Dozens of Iraqi civilians in Mosul have reportedly been brutally killed by the Islamic State in recent days, as government forces continue their offensive to retake the city from the jihadist group.
According to Reuters, mutilated bodies of Mosul residents caught attempting to flee the city have strung up from electricity poles across the city which IS made its de facto Iraqi capital of their now crumbling “caliphate.”
One man told the news agency that one of his relatives was among four Mosul residents who were hanged from an electricity pole in the city’s Tenek district for attempting to escape this week.
“Their appearance was shocking. We weren’t able to get them down and they have been there for two days,” he told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
According to the report, Kurdish security forces estimate that Islamic State militants have killed up to 140 Mosul residents this week
Another resident reported at least 40 fleeing civilians caught by IS have been killed in Mosul’s Old city, including children and elderly residents.
“I fear those (families) who stayed in Daesh’s grip met a terrible fate,” said a woman from the Yarmouk District who narrowly managed to escape, referring to the group by their Arabic acronym.
According to the United Nations, at least 307 Mosul residents have been killed between February 17 and March 22, a period which only covers the first weeks of the offensive on west Mosul but not the entire operation that started in mid-October last year.
The fighting to retake what is now the last major IS stronghold in Iraq is taking its toll on civilians and the local residents working to get the war-torn city back on its feet.
Pride and pain as Mosul doctors treat their own
Every time a patient is stretchered into the Athbah field hospital south of Mosul, doctor Sultan prays it isn’t his sister or brother.
Most of the medical staff is from the war-torn Iraqi city and each one of the victims they treat could be a relative or a neighbor.
“It’s very painful for us… Many people, many children, need amputations or will remain paralyzed,” he says from the small field hospital set up in Athbah, just a few miles south of Mosul.
Sultan, who chose not divulge his full name, fled Mosul when IS still controlled Mosul.
But his siblings are trapped inside, in neighborhoods of Mosul’s west bank still held by the jihadists despite almost six months of fighting by the security forces to retake the city.
“I have no news,” he said. “Daesh (IS) uses civilians as human shields and many buildings have been leveled by air strikes. They might be lying under the rubble and I don’t know about it.”
For now, the 43-year-old is treating a man in his forties with facial injuries.
“He’s stable,” he says, after feeling the pulse in the patient’s bloodied wrist.
In the same room, Faruq Abdulkader is treating a teenager who is writhing in pain but was relatively lucky: “The bullet went straight through the arm without touching the bone,” the doctor said, relieved.
These doctors used to work in Mosul but fled the tyrannic rule of the jihadists. Now that regular forces are wresting back Iraq’s second city street by street, they are back to help.
The Athbah field hospital opened on March 24 with support from the World Health Organization and the Iraqi health authorities.
Abdulkader said most of the injuries they treated were caused by explosions but the hardest thing was often to witness the suffering of their own neighbours.
“Some of them are our neighbors, coming from the same area where I was living in Mosul, and I’m so sad for them,” he said.
The battle for Mosul has raged for nearly six months and supplies have dwindled sharply as Iraqi forces secured the city’s east bank and sealed their siege on the jihadists’ last redoubts on the west side.
Basic goods have been unavailable for months and the little food that is left is either too expensive or hoarded by the jihadists.
“Nearly all our patients suffer from malnutrition,” says Taryn Anderson, head nurse at the Athbah clinic. “We can’t call it a famine but it’s very alarming, especially for the children.”
After examining the very weak patient who was just wheeled in, the doctors decide against a transfusion — the precious blood they do have will be saved for other patients with a real chance of survival.
Ali Saad Abdulkhaled, a 26-year-old nurse who used to treat people in his home in east Mosul during the fighting there, said the number of wounded civilians was increasing sharply.
“The west side is more densely populated, it’s the Old City,” he said. “The number of victims is huge. They are our neighbors, our families.”