- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

BAGHDAD (AP) - The Latest on the fighting in Iraq (all times local):

8 p.m.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad says Iraqi forces have paused in their march toward the northern city of Mosul in order to reposition some of their troops, resupply them and take extra security measures to ensure that their rear areas are clear of Islamic State fighters.

The spokesman, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, said on Friday that the pause is “widespread” and is expected to last a couple of days. Afterward, the Iraqi forces are to resume their push toward Mosul.

He described the pause as a normal move at this stage of the battle and not an indication that the Iraqis have lost any momentum.

Dorrian said the Iraq forces are “still largely on-plan.”


7:45 p.m.

The Russian military says the U.S.-led coalition has committed “war crimes” by striking civilians in the Iraqi city of Mosul and nearby areas.

Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the military’s General Staff presented Friday what he said was documentary evidence of the U.S.-led coalition strikes that killed over 60 and wounded over 200 on Oct. 21-23.

He exhibited aerial images of a school in the southeastern part of Mosul before and after last Saturday’s strike, along with aerial pictures showing damage to residential buildings in other areas. He added that a U.S. jet struck a school in Tall Kayf just north of Mosul on Monday, resulting in an as yet undetermined number of casualties.

Rudskoi said “we hope that the U.S. will fulfill its pledge and conduct an objective investigation into these war crimes.”


7:30 p.m.

The U.S. military says coalition airstrikes targeted a group of around 50 vehicles that Islamic State fighters were gathering in order to transport Iraqi civilians into Mosul from the militant-held city’s outskirts.

Col. John Dorrian, a Baghdad-based military spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon on Friday that it was believed the militants intended to use the civilians as human shields.

He says that 40 to 45 of the vehicles were hit in the U.S. attack before any civilians were put in them. He did not know the location of the strike or which day it happened.

The U.N. human rights office said Friday that IS has rounded up tens of thousands of civilians in and around Mosul to use as human shields as Iraqi forces approach the city.


5:55 p.m.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief says that defeating the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria is key to preventing terrorist attacks on European soil.

But Federica Mogherini also says that simply containing IS fighters in the two Mideast countries won’t eliminate the threat of more attacks in Europe.

She says that looking at an IS defeat solely from the point of view that it may result in fighters heading to Europe to commit terrorist acts would be “shortsighted and cynical.”

She spoke after talks with the Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides on Friday.

Mogherini also stressed the importance of getting people back to their homes in a liberated city of Mosul in Iraq quickly and securely. She says the EU has cracked down on the financing of terror activities and stepped up control of jihadi fighters going to Syria and Iraq and returning Europe.


3 p.m.

The U.S. military says it carried out airstrikes near the Iraqi city of Mosul earlier this week to try to prevent Islamic State militants from forcing thousands of civilians north into the city to use them as human shields.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Matthew C. Isler told The Associated Press Friday that the coalition conducted “precision strikes” on vehicles that the militants were using in the operation. He says the vehicles were unoccupied and far enough away from the civilians to ensure none were harmed.

The U.N. human rights office says IS militants are using tens of thousands of people as human shields in and around Mosul. It says the group has also killed more than 200 people this week for refusing to comply with its orders or for previously belonging to the Iraqi security forces.

Isler says the use of human shields is another example of the group’s “atrocities.”


1:45 p.m.

The United Nations’ human rights office says the Islamic State group appears to be using tens of thousands of civilians in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul as “human shields.”

It has received reports of more than 200 people being killed for refusing to comply with IS orders or previously belonging to Iraqi security forces.

Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said Friday in Geneva that “credible reports” suggest IS has been forcing tens of thousands from their homes in districts around Mosul.

She said: “ISIL’s depraved, cowardly strategy is to attempt to use the presence of civilian hostages to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations, effectively using tens of thousands of women, men and children as human shields.”

Shamdasani says 232 people, mostly former officers, were reportedly shot Wednesday, and 24 Tuesday.


1:20 p.m.

The U.S. military says Iraqi forces have retaken 40 villages from the Islamic State group near Mosul since a massive operation to drive the militants from the city began last week.

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Matthew C. Isler said Friday that Iraqi troops are consolidating gains made east and south of the city earlier this week, but insisted “momentum” was still on their side.

The fight to retake Mosul, which fell to IS in a matter of days in the summer of 2014, is the largest military operation undertaken in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Isler says the U.S.-led coalition has stepped up airstrikes against the militants, and is carrying out three times as many as it did during previous campaigns to drive IS from other Iraqi cities.

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