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Security Forces Abused Civilians in Mosul Campaign, Iraq Admits


FILE - Iraqi civilians walk toward Iraqi security forces after fleeing their homes because of fighting between government forces and Islamic State militants, on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, March 9, 2017.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's office said Thursday that a unit of the security forces committed "abuses" against civilians during the offensive to oust Islamic State insurgents from Mosul.

His government began an investigation in May into a report by German news magazine Der Spiegel that included images of apparent torture taken by a freelance photographer embedded with the Interior Ministry's elite Emergency Response Division (ERD).

"The committee has concluded ... that clear abuses and violations were committed by members of the ERD," a statement from Abadi's office said. It added that the perpetrators would be prosecuted.

Spiegel's photos showed detainees accused of affiliation with IS hanging from a ceiling with their arms bent behind them, and the journalist wrote of prisoners being tortured to death, raped and stabbed with knives.

FILE - A tank of the Emergency Response Division fires at Islamic State militants in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, July 5, 2017.
FILE - A tank of the Emergency Response Division fires at Islamic State militants in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, July 5, 2017.

The ERD was one of several government security forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition that drove IS out of Mosul, the northern city the jihadists seized in 2014 and proclaimed their "capital," in a nine-month campaign that ended in July.

The ERD initially denied the Der Spiegel report and accused the German weekly of publishing "fabricated and unreal images."

The photographer said he had initially intended to document the heroism of Iraqi forces fighting IS but that a darker side of the war had gradually been revealed to him.

The soldiers with whom he was embedded allowed him to witness and photograph the alleged torture scenes, he said. He has now fled Iraq with his family, fearing for his safety.

IS's self-proclaimed "caliphate" effectively collapsed with the fall of Mosul, but parts of Iraq and Syria remain under its control, especially in border areas.

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