ISIS militants are now using civilians as bait

The Pentagon says Islamic State militants in the Iraqi city of Mosul are holding civilians in buildings by force and then deliberately attracting coalition strikes.

A Pentagon spokesman on March 30 said the U.S. military will soon release a video showing IS fighters herding people into a building, then firing from the structure to bait coalition forces.

Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR)-Paladin-Qayyarah-West-near-mosul, islamic state

A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin conducts a fire mission at Qayyarah West, Iraq, in support of the Iraqi security forces’ push toward Mosul, Oct. 17, 2016. The United States stands with a Coalition of more than 60 international partners to assist and support the Iraqi security forces to degrade and defeat ISIL. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christopher Brecht)

The comments come as the U.S. military responds to criticism from within Iraq and internationally over a separate incident in which as many as 240 civilians are believed to have been killed.

“What you see now is not the use of civilians as human shields,” said Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the coalition. “Now it’s something much more sinister.”

He said militants are “smuggling civilians so we won’t see them” into buildings and then attempting to draw an attack.

He said he was working on declassifying a video showing militants conducting such an operation.

Human rights group Amnesty International, Pope Francis, and others have urged for better protection for civilians caught in the war, with calls intensifying after a separate March 17 explosion in the Mosul al-Jadida district, killing scores of people.

The U.S. military previously acknowledged that coalition planes probably had a role in the explosion and subsequent building collapse, but it said the ammunition used was insufficient to explain the amount of destruction observed.

Officials said they suspect the building may have been booby-trapped or that the damage may have been caused by the detonation of a truck bomb.

U.S.-backed forces are attempting to push IS fighters out of west Mosul after having liberated the less-populated eastern part of Iraq’s second-largest city.

Scrocca estimated that some 1,000 militants remain in west Mosul, their last stronghold in Iraq, down from 2,000 when the assault was launched on February 19.

They are facing about 100,000 Iraqi government forces, he added.

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