16 Jun 2017
At least 100,000 people trapped in ISIL-held Mosul Old City
ISIL fighters have trapped more than 100,000 people in the Old City of Mosul in Iraq for use as human shields, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
The development comes eight months into the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city from the extremists.
UNHCR’s representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, told journalists in Geneva that the civilians came from Zangili (Zanjili) in west Mosul which Iraqi Security Forces retook this week.
“We know that ISIS moved them as they left Zangili and other locations where the fighting was going on, so these civilians are basically held as human shields in the Old City.”
Mr Geddo described the Old City as a maze of alleys which would have to be retaken “on foot, by hand and house by house”.
Food, water and fuel are running out and there is panic among those held by ISIL, the UNHCR representative added.
To date, some 670,000 people remain displaced from Mosul, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
Torture video alarm for hundreds of migrants in Libya
Efforts are under way to find hundreds of migrants being held and tortured by people-smugglers in Libya.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it learned of the situation after seeing social media videos earlier this month which depicted scenes of “active torture”.
The victims – men and women – are believed to be from Somalia and Ethiopia.
Footage of them was taken to convince their family and friends to pay for their release, according to IOM spokesperson Joel Millman.
He said that there could be “up to 360” victims who have been denied food and been beaten.
“It is our judgement that the video is authentic, it’s consistent with a trend we have been seeing for years using social media or mobile phones to intimidate relatives and threaten to injure or kill migrants who are being held against their will. It is by no means the first time this has been seen in this region, we’ve actually seen it in other parts of the world as well.”
Lawlessness in Libya following the civil war in 2011 has left the country prey to human trafficking gangs who often operate with impunity.
IOM says it is working with the authorities to trace and rescue the victims.
Spike in Ukraine shelling threatens water supplies for 3 million people
A surge in fighting in Ukraine risks cutting off water to three million people, 750,000 of them children, the UN said on Friday.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued the warning after damage to vital infrastructure left 400,000 people without water for four days this week in the east of the country.
More than three years of conflict between government forces and separatist militias has left 3.8 million people needing aid; more than 1.5 million are homeless.
UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac highlighted the risk of disease and violence to children forced to seek alternative sources of water:
“Two filtration stations for the South Donbass water pipeline were destroyed by shelling. Urgent repairs were completed yesterday evening….We expect more families who will be cut off from safe drinking water, putting children at severe risk of disease and other dangers.”
To date, the UN agency has trucked in drinking water to more than 1.5 million people in government and opposition-held areas.
It has issued an appeal to all sides in the conflict to stop what it called the “indiscriminate shelling of vital civilian infrastructure” and to allow repairs when water sources are destroyed.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva