Mosul parents sedate children with drugs, fearing discovery by ISIL
AFP photoTerrified Iraqi families fleeing fierce fighting in Mosul are drugging their children with sedatives or taping their mouths shut to prevent their cries alerting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants as they try to escape, as Iraqi forces prepare a fresh push against the jihadists using new tactics
Hala Jaber of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said men caught trying to leave would be shot while women were sometimes tied up and left outside in the cold as a warning. Militants are also using civilians as human shields.
“Families often leave at night and in the early hours of the morning and have to walk with their children. The kids get tired and if they cry it’s very difficult,” Jaber told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Erbil, east of Mosul.
“Families are sometimes putting duct tape on their children’s mouths or even giving them Valium or tranquilizers just to keep them quiet so that they are not found out by ISIS [ISIL] and captured or shot.”
She said IOM staff had heard similar stories from families fleeing other ISIL-controlled areas in Iraq.
Iraqi forces launched a campaign to retake West Mosul a month ago after capturing the eastern side of the city in January.
Aid agencies say the situation is desperate for up to 600,000 people who remain trapped with shortages of food, water, fuel and medical supplies. Of those, about 400,000 Iraqi civilians are trapped in the ISIL-held Old City of western Mosul, U.N. said.
The U.N. refugee agency said on March 23 that 157,000 people had reached a reception center for residents fleeing the fighting.
Amy Christian, an Oxfam spokeswoman in Iraq, said civilians reaching safety were “very traumatized, hungry, dehydrated and completely exhausted”.
Some had given their children sedatives to shield them from the terror as they fled, she said.
“My family gave drugs to the young children,” teenager Noor Muhammed told Oxfam after escaping with 27 people.
“Parents gave sleeping medicine to their children so they wouldn’t be horrified by the fighting; also, [so that] when they ran at night under the darkness they wouldn’t be found because of the children,” Muhammed said in a statement provided by Oxfam.
Specialist teams are helping children arriving at displacement camps with psychological support.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammedawi, a spokesman for the elite Rapid Response forces told Reuters by phone that attacks against ISIL would soon resume, and “new techniques” more suitable to fighting in the Old City would be used.
A Federal Police officer told Reuters the new tactics would include deploying additional sniper units against ISIL sharpshooters.
The officer asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of discussing military tactics.
ISIL fighters have stationed themselves in homes belonging to Mosul residents to fire at Iraqi troops, often drawing air or artillery strikes that have killed civilians.
Dozens of residents were buried in collapsed buildings in the Iraqi city of Mosul after an air strike against ISIL triggered a massive explosion last week and rescuers are still recovering bodies, civil defense agency officials and locals said on March 23.
The exact cause of the collapses was not clear, but a local lawmaker and two local residents said air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition targeting ISIL militants may have detonated a truck filled with explosives, destroying buildings in a heavily populated area.
Civil Defence chief Brigadier Mohammed Al-Jawari told local reporters that rescue teams were retrieving bodies from under the debris in the Mosul Jadida district near Rahma hospital, the site of heavy fighting between Iraqi forces and ISIL.
Local lawmaker Faris al-Sanjari told Reuters the coalition air strike had targeted a truck bomb causing a huge explosion.
“You can’t kill dozens just to destroy a booby-trapped truck parked near houses,” he said.