The Islamic State seized 197 children and is using them as human shields, according to the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (Arabic website).
The children are being held around the Large Mosque on the east bank of Mosul to halt the advance of the coalition forces currently trying to wrestle eastern Mosul from ISIS’ grip, said Mustafa Sa’adoun, who heads the IOHR.
The U.S. top military staffer in Iraq, Lt.-Gen. Stephen Townsend, also believes ISIS is using human shields. But, he added, this will not stop the push against ISIS:
It’s not a war crime to accidentally kill civilians … It’s unfortunate, but it’s not a crime because these solders have to make these decisions in seconds sometimes in circumstances that you cannot image unless you have experienced them.
Still, he added that the U.S. military’s investigation into the March 17 incident was focusing on what Iraqi witnesses called a deliberate plot by ISIS to put the civilians into a building where they were fighting.
“It sure looks like they were” forced into the building, Townsend said, noting that ISIS has long used human shields. “The enemy had a hand in this.”
ISIS executed 122 civilians on March 25 who had fled the a-Rifa’i and July 17 neighborhoods, said Sa’adoun.
A separate human rights organization reported 26 men were executed in front of their families in another part of the city. ISIS shot the men on March 26.