According to reports coming out of Iraq, ISIS snipers have begun firing on men, women, and children attempting to flee Mosul under cover of darkness.
Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and largest ISIS stronghold in the nation, has been the site of extensive fighting, as coalition backed Iraqi security forces have worked to rid the city, and the nation, of the terrorist organization. Anti-ISIS fighters successfully took the eastern side of the city in January and are continuing their offensive through its western portions.
Civilians have fled the city of Mosul by the thousands, but in an act of desperation, ISIS snipers have begun targeting innocents as they attempt to get away from the battle front.
Iraqi intelligence officers stated that more than 6,000 civilians came through an East Mosul checkpoint on Thursday alone, some carrying suitcases, others only the clothing on their backs. As night fell, the exodus continued, with cracks of sniper fire tearing through the Iraqi night.
“The snipers are professional, they do not care. Anybody that moves, they kill,” said Faris Khader, from al-Abar district.
The battle to retake Mosul has raged for over five months now, with more than a half million civilians trapped within the city as ISIS fighters attempt to use them to shield themselves from coalition airstrikes. Many Iraqis have been critical of the U.S. led strikes, accusing them of claiming as many lives as the terrorists attempting to use them as human shields.
“There are many people dead under the rubble. Some in my family died. Nobody can take the bodies out. They were killed by an air strike,” said Khader, who claims an ISIS sniper was using the roof of his home to fight Iraqi security forces until an airstrike destroyed the building.
Life in the city under ISIS control has been extremely difficult for civilians trapped between the terrorists and security forces, who face certain death at the hands of ISIS fighters and the constant fear of being caught in the crossfire as Iraqi liberators attempt to root out the fighters clinging to their last Urban Iraqi stronghold.
“It’s very difficult. There’s no food, no water. They are killing a lot of people. They kill anyone who goes out, they kill them in the street.” Omar said of the ISIS fighters controlling the area he and his family live in. “We have no money. We have suffered for three years.”
Two more Iraqi citizens who gave the names Salwan and Noor told reporters from Reuters that they had to trek for two hours through ISIS controlled streets to reach their home, only to find that it had been destroyed in the fighting. Noor, who is deaf and wheelchair bound, was shot at by ISIS fighters as they attempted to traverse the city, forcing them to remain in hiding whenever possible.
Kaled Kahlil passed through the security checkpoint with his wife and children. He was forced to leave wearing only plastic shower shoes and with none of his possessions when his carpentry shop was destroyed.
“I came like this. We had the chance so we fled,” said the 36-year-old. “We have been traveling since yesterday. We are very tired but now we are safe.”
For the innocent Iraqi civilians trapped inside Mosul, their only hope for a normal life can only come at the end of the bloody battle for the city, but waiting for a coalition victory is no longer possible for many. More and more Iraqis are now choosing instead to flee the city, despite ISIS snipers attempting to stop them, in order to seek refuge behind the U.S. backed security forces’ checkpoints.
Image courtesy of Reuters