REPORT: ISIS taking new tactic to keep residents captive in their homes

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After seven months of battling bloodthirsty jihadists, Iraqi forces are close to victory, but first they have to take Mosul back. So, in their final efforts to keep families from fleeing war-torn Mosul, Islamic State militants have begun planting bombs near the front doors of their homes, according to a federal police commander and other witnesses on Wednesday. The jihadists are, in essence, using several hundred thousand citizens of Mosul as human shields.

With support from a U.S.-led coalition, in the past several weeks Iraqi forces have been able to force out ISIS fighters from all but about 12 square km (5 square miles) of Mosul.

Now, the militants are making their last stand in Mosul’s densely populated Old City, which is paved with streets too narrow to accommodate armored vehicles, forcing Iraqi soldiers to advance on foot.

The Iraqi government’s stated goal is to declare victory by the holy month of Ramadan, which will begin on May 27. And military commanders are saying that this objective is to be met even if the Old City has some small locations that are still under siege.

According to Lieutenant-General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi on state TV Wednesday, his elite Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) were “advancing steadily in the Rifaie and Najjar districts, aiming to reach the western bank of Tigris river and complete the Old City’s encirclement, and militants had deployed 30 suicide car bombs against his troops in Mosul over the past two days.”

Assadi described a situation in the Siha district where ISIS fighters “had chained civilians by the hands and used them as human shields to move around.” He said, “We saw them moving with their weapons in the midst of the civilians but we did not strike them.”

He noted that once the militants reached cover, their hostages were unchained and released. Hundreds have been killed, and the people who survive bombardment during the fighting are facing food shortages and now can’t even leave their homes for fear of triggering a bomb just by opening the front door.

Iraqi government figures estimate that nearly 10,000 people were displaced from Mosul on Tuesday. Roughly 700,000 have left Mosul since the start of the fighting last October.

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