Iraq Told Mosul Civilians to Stay: Now They’re Shelling Them

As Offensive Slows, Iraq Turns to Heavy Artillery

When Iraqi forces initially started advancing toward Mosul, officials were upbeat about a quick victory. Leaflets were being dropped by the million warning civilians not to bother fleeing from the massive city. This was meant to make up for the lack of preparations for large numbers of displaced, but also seen as unnecessary since they thought everything would be wrapped up.

Now, all those civilians who didn’t flee are finding themselves increasingly in the line of fire. Iraqi military commanders are complaining the offensive is going slow because the presence of so many civilians limits the use of tanks and artillery, but reports suggests they’re increasingly using heavy artillery anyhow.

ISIS wasn’t particularly keen on letting civilians flee, and with Iraq warning them no to go either, many saw flight from the city as risky. Yet similar Iraqi offensives against other ISIS-held cities caused massive destruction, and staying was clearly a risk as well.

Hospitals in Mosul are already facing a growing number of casualties, and Iraq and the US seem to be looking to shift blame back and forth, with the US saying Iraq should reverse their stance and order all the civilians out of Mosul. Iraq, for its part, insists the offensive would go better if the US was carrying out more airstrikes.

While Iraqi officials ultimately continue to insist the offensive is going more or less as planned, the same problems which slowed previous offensive are recurring in Mosul, and as usual the answer seems to be to escalate the destruction and shift the blame.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of