Up to 100,000 civilians trapped in Hawijah as battle looms

September 6, 2017 at 10:25 am

Civilians from Hawijah area arrive at peshmerga positions (photograph: Kirkuknow, April 2017)

Islamic State (Isis) is using civilians in the town of Hawijah, a stronghold of the group, as human shields and up to 85,000 civilians could be displaced  as a result of the impending fighting, the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said in a report.

The operation to retake the town of Hawijah, “we are coming Hawijah”, and its surroundings is underway and the battle is expected to begin in a near future. The Observatory has warned that thousands of people are surrounded in the areas under Isis control and it is expected that Isis would use them as human shields. The human rights group also warned that up to 85,000 civilians would be caught up in the fighting and urged the authorities to make preparations for such an eventuality. There are currently somewhere between 80,000 to 95,000 civilians trapped in the town of Hawijah.

Hawijah is 55km to the southwest of Kirkuk city and includes sub districts of Zaab, Rashad, Riyaz, Abbasi which were taken over by Isis in June 2014.

The Observatory says it has spoken to witnesses inside the city who claim that Isis has forced people to take up arms and has planted IEDs by the side of the roads and detained civilians next to the groups’s headquarters to be used as human shields.

The Observatory also says that over the last two months Isis had detained around 50 people and executed them on the pretext of having links to the Iraqi security forces.

The plan to attack Hawijah comes on the heels of the declaration by Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi on August 31 that the whole of Nineveh province retaken as Isis was wiped out from Tal Afar area.

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