New Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, unseen, during a meeting in Baghdad, Sept. 10, 2014.
New Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi listens to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, unseen, during a meeting in Baghdad, Sept. 10, 2014.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has ordered the country's air force to stop strikes on civilian areas held by Islamic State militants.

Abadi said the extremists are using civilians as human shields, and the deaths of innocent victims must be prevented. He says he issued the order to stop air attacks on Thursday.

The prime minister said the Iraqi army will continue military operations on the ground against the insurgents who have taken control of large territories in Iraq's north and west.

Meanwhile, U.S. military forces have continued to attack Islamic State forces from the air, conducting two airstrikes on Friday near the Mosul Dam. The U.S. Defense Department says the strikes destroyed an Islamic State mortar emplacement and one of its armed vehicles.

The UN representative in Iraq praised the move by prime Minister Abadi. Nickolay Mladenov said "Protection of civilians and their safety is a paramount priority for the United Nations."

The UN says that more than 1.8 million people have been displaced in Iraq since the militants began their destructive campaign in January.

Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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