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ISIS Captures Thousands of Civilians in Iraq amid Fears of a Massacre | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Civilians displaced by heavy fighting between Iraqi security forces and ISIS militants queue outside a tent set up by MSF, or Doctors Without Borders, to provide medical aid at a shelter in Makhmour, east of Mosul, Iraq. AP

Erbil-ISIS executed a number of residents while trying to flee the organization’s controlled town of Hawijah in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Iraqi official and security sources said on Friday.

ISIS had detained thousands of civilians who were fleeing the town, driving them to an identified location amid warnings that a massacre could happen if the government fails to quickly act.

Residents from Hawijah, which lies 240 kilometers north of Baghdad, tried to escape from the hands of extremists in the past few days, at a time when Iraqi forces launched operations to regain control of the town and the surrounding area that stretches to the Tigris River in an attempt to advance towards the city of Mosul.

A local tribal leader urged Iraqi forces to increase their operations aimed at retaking Hawijah and rescue trapped civilians.

Sheikh Anwar al-Assi told AFP: “We are facing the risk of a massacre and the government has to move quickly.”

Another brigadier general with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces said: “Our forces received 600 people yesterday and offered them assistance.”

The Brigadier General added: “We heard from them that ISIS is holding hundreds of families hostage and has executed young men for escaping from the land of jihad (holy war) to the land of the infidels.”

Vice President of the Kirkuk Centre of Democratic Organizations of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Asi Ali told Asharq Al-Awsat that “according to available information, ISIS has shot ten people who were leading the fleeing residents,” adding that the majority of residents escaping the town of Hawijah were women and children.

“ISIS took them to an identified location and their whereabouts is still unknown,” Ali said.

Ammar Obeidi, a resident who fled one of the towns linked to Hawijah, said: “ISIS, using a mediator, takes a sum of $400 or what equals 500,000 Iraqi Dinars from every person who plans to flee an ISIS-controlled area. Also, the organization confiscates their livestock and their house belongings. However, most residents do not possess this sum, therefore, the organization captures them.”

Warnings of a possible massacre in Kirkuk coincided with a report issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) saying ISIS has captured up to 3,000 residents who tried to flee from Kirkuk on Thursday.

The report said 12 of them were executed.

According to the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS was using people as shields against attacks by Iraqi security forces. The Observatory said scores of civilians had been executed and six were burned.

The observatory said about 1,900 civilians had been captured by an estimated 100 to 120 ISIS armed militants.