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Daesh forces young men to fight in defense of Mosul, say refugees

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Author: ReutersTue, 2017-03-21ID: 1490036368706531500MOSUL: Daesh militants are forcing young men in western Mosul to fight for them in defense of the remaining pockets of their former stronghold against an Iraqi government assault, fleeing residents and Iraqi officers said on Monday.The forced recruitment is a sign that the hard-line terrorists are growing more desperate as the battle for what was once the de facto capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate enters its sixth month.Elite Federal Police and Rapid Response units on Monday resumed their cautious advance on Al-Nuri Mosque in western Mosul’s Old City. But thousands of people took advantage of the fog and rain in the early morning to flee Daesh-controlled areas and reach the safety of government lines.The militants were using residents as human shields, hiding in houses and forcing young men to fight, several refugees said.Ali, a former government worker, said he had hidden his sons in a basement when Daesh fighters came looking for recruits.“It feels like the siege is ending. All they are doing now is defending,” he told Reuters. “I hid my sons in the basement and told them if you want my sons you will have to kill me.”Yassin, a butcher who also escaped from the west side, said Daesh held less ground than before.“They would come to my butcher shop looking for people so people stayed away. People even stopped going to the mosque because sometimes they would come to take people from there to join the fighting,” he said.Residents who had left said Iraqi, Syrian and other foreign militants remaining in the area tried to make them stay.“A French militant beat me and threatened me to force me to stay,” said one woman who gave her name as Um Tahseen.A Federal Police intelligence officer, Capt. Ali Al-Kinani, said the militants wanted to fill up their ranks as they had suffered heavy casualties.Some fighters were wearing civilian clothes under their uniforms and would switch outfits to mix in with fleeing civilians, he said.“We arrested dozens who said that they were forced by Daesh to carry arms or take a bullet in the head if they refused,” Al-Kinani said. “Many families that fled the fight asked our troops to help their sons. Some young men hiding inside their houses are still waiting for our forces to secure their neighborhoods and rescue them.”Meanwhile, Daesh captured an Iraqi police colonel and eight other officers in western Mosul after they ran out of ammunition Monday morning, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said. The officers were caught around 3 a.m. in Bab Jadid district in Mosul. It was unclear where the officers were, the official said.Separately, world donors pledged more than $75 million Monday to protect cultural heritage sites threatened by war and the wave of ideological-driven destruction carried out by Daesh militants.French President Francois Hollande, speaking at a donors’ conference in the Louvre Museum in Paris, said the goal for the heritage fund is $100 million and urged other countries around the world to contribute.France is pledging $30 million for the fund and Saudi Arabia is committing $20 million, according to the French Culture Ministry. The UAE has promised $15 million, Kuwait $5 million, Luxembourg $3 million, Morocco $1.5 million and philanthropist Thomas Kaplan pledged $1 million.Switzerland pledged further money in administrative and legal support and will host the fund in Geneva. Italy said it would provide military personnel and conservation experts.Daesh militants have stolen or destroyed a host of cultural artifacts, including the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra, the Mosul museum in Iraq and the 13th century B.C. Assyrian capital of Nimrud, which is also in Iraq.
Main category: Middle-East

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