IS militants posing as police 'execute' civilians in Mosul
At least 15 civilians were killed by Islamic State militants posing as liberating security forces in central Mosul, officials said on Tuesday.
The victims were killed after welcoming the militants, who were wearing police uniforms in an attempt to trick the residents into showing their support for the federal forces, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) and a local official said.
"Daesh (IS) terrorist gangs committed a brutal crime yesterday morning in an area of Mosul's Old City," the JOC said in a statement.
It said the militants, who are defending their last Mosul bastions against a huge six-month-old offensive by the security forces, wanted to "confound civilians who expressed joy and welcomed them with chanting".
They killed women and children, the JOC said, "to make it clear the area was still under enemy control".
The statement did not specify how many were killed in that manner but Hossameddin al-Abbar, a member of Nineveh provincial council, told AFP at least 15 civilians were shot dead.
"Daesh members, some of them wearing federal police uniforms, entered the Al-Maidan and Corniche areas of the Old City," he said.
"They were driving black vehicles and posing as liberators from the Iraqi forces," Abbar added.
"When some families welcomed them, they arrested several of them. They executed at least 15 other people," he said.
It came just hours after Iraqi forces retook full control of one the largest neighbourhoods in west Mosul from the Islamic State group after a week of intense fighting, a top commander said.
"This morning, the heroes of the Counter-Terrorism Service on the western axis succeeded in fully clearing Tenek neighbourhood," Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi told AFP in Mosul.
The elite forces have been spearheading a massive offensive launched in mid-October 2016 to retake Mosul, the country's second city and the last major Iraqi bastion of the militants' now crumbling "caliphate".
Last week, Iraqi forces recaptured two other neighbourhoods, al-Thawra and Nasr, in the west of the city.
The eastern side of the city, which is divided by the Tigris River, was recaptured in January, and a push on the west bank of Mosul launched the following month has made steady progress despite fierce resistance.
The loss of Mosul would be a death blow to the "caliphate" IS proclaimed after capturing the city in a massive offensive in June 2014. The group now only control seven percent of Iraq, down from the 40 percent of the national territory over which they ruled three years ago, Iraq's military says.