The escalation of violence in Iraq since January has caused 26,733 victims, of which 9,347 dead and 17,386 injured, with over half of these attributable to the offensive launched three months ago in the north by the Islamic State insurgents. The numbers are revealed in a 29-page report drawn up by the United Nations Human Rights Office and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report records at least 11,159 civilian casualties between 1 June and 31 August, which includes at least 4,692 civilians killed, and 6,467 wounded. According to the report, the actual numbers could be much higher, considering that the toll of civilians who have died from the secondary effects of violence, such as lack of access to basic food, water or medicine, are unknown.
“The array of violations and abuses perpetrated by Islamic State and associated armed groups is staggering, and many of their acts may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity”, said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, calling on Baghdad authorities to recognize the competence of the ICC (International Criminal Court).
The UN experts reveal in the report evidence of “systematic” and vast violations by the Islamist forces, including “abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms”. The widening conflict has forced 1.8 million Iraqis to flee their homes, especially in the Anbar province and Iraqi Kurdistan.
Meanwhile, a battle is underway for control over the area of Heet, in west of Anbar. The Islamic State has already proclaimed victory, claiming to have enetered the city, but the mayor rejected the claim, indicating “ongoing fighting” and “heavy losses” in the rebel lines, with at least 40 fighters killed. Based on first reports released by medical and security sources, at least 11 police officers were killed in Heet and another 6 in Ramadi in two separate attacks by the Islamic State gainst army and police bases in the western province.
Baghdad authorities continue conducting airstrikes that, according to the UN, have caused “significant casualties”. The northern regions are under international coalition force airstrikes, in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. [VV/BO]
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