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UN, Rights Groups Warn Of Civilian Deaths In Mosul Battle

Displaced Iraqis flee their homes during a battle between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants in western Mosul last month.

The United Nations says it has received credible reports indicating that the Islamic State (IS) extremist group has killed more than 231 Iraqi civilians attempting to flee the fighting in northern city of Mosul over the past two weeks.

In a June 8 statement, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Right said that at least 204 civilians, including women and children, were shot and killed over three days last week alone.

Noting a "significant escalation" in such killings, it said the civilians were trying to flee the Al-Shifa neighborhood in western Mosul amid armed clashes between IS fighters and pro-government forces.

The statement also mentioned reports of between 50 and 80 civilians being killed in a May 31 air strike on Zanjili, another IS-held area of western Mosul, and called on Iraqi security forces and their coalition partners to ensure that "all possible measures are taken to avoid the loss of civilian lives."

Also on June 8, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other rights groups said in a joint statement that some air strikes and unguided munitions used against IS militants in Mosul were putting civilians "at excessive risk."

The statement said that large air-dropped bombs, unguided artillery rockets, and other "inaccurate" ammunition "can be unlawfully indiscriminate if used in heavily populated areas."

In October 2016, Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul from IS militants with the support of a U.S.-led multinational coalition. They have since taken control of the east of the city and are now battling IS fighters on the west.

The United Nations has estimated that 200,000 civilians remain in the IS-held Old City, which pro-government forces have been encircling.

IS militants seized large swaths of northern Iraq and Syria in an offensive in June 2014.

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