Iraq’s most prominent cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has called on army soldiers, fighters from pro-government Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling to retake the city of Mosul from Daesh State militants to protect civilians trapped there.
“We stress today upon our beloved fighters, as we have before on many occasions, that they exercise the greatest degree of restraint in dealing with civilians stuck in the areas, where there is fighting. Protect them and prevent any harm to them by all possible means,” read a statement from Ayatollah Sistani read by his representative Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalaei during a Friday sermon in the holy shrine city of Karbala.
He also called on the “good people of Mosul to cooperate with the security forces as much as possible and to facilitate their mission to free them from the rule of Daesh terrorists.”
The remarks came as Commander of Federal Police Forces, Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat, said elite counter-terrorism forces have entered the village of al-Shak south of Mosul.
Jawdat added that security forces have marched into the villages of Maftan and Tal Nasser, which lie south of Mosul, killing and arresting some 220 Daesh terrorists in the process.
Furthermore, Iraqi government forces have raised the national flag over a church in the historically Christian town of Bartella, a day after recapturing it from Daesh.
Daesh Takfiris had desecrated the holy site, spraying graffiti on its walls, and littering the floors with dirt and garbage.
Earlier on Friday, security forces liberated Na’anah village south of Mosul, and detonated four cars packed with explosives in addition to two bicycle bombs.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) also stated late on Thursday that the 75th Brigade of the 16th Division of the Army had wrested control over Sharirat village south of Mosul.
Also on Thursday, Iraqi government forces seized the villages of Makook, Taloul Nasser, Hazrat Nasser and Umm al-Manasis from Daesh extremists.
This as Daesh extremists, according to the UN, have abducted 550 families from villages around Mosul and are holding them as human shields.
“We are gravely concerned by reports that Daesh is using the civilians in and around Mosul as human shields as the Iraqi forces advance. They are keeping civilians close to their offices or places, where fighters are located,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein said in a statement read out by his spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani on Friday.
Shamdasani added that Daesh forced some 200 families from Samalia village to walk to Mosul on October 17, and another 350 families left Najafia village for Mosul on the same day.
Nearly 30,000 army soldiers, fighters from pro-government Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga forces are involved in a massive and multi-pronged operation to retake the city of Mosul from Daesh militants.