UN report unveils 'staggering' level of violence in Iraq

At least 18,800 people killed by Islamic State in less than two years while millions have fled their homes


Islamic State is inflicting "staggering" levels of suffering on civilians in Iraq, says a new United Nations report.

At least 18,800 people were killed between 1 January 2014 and 31 October 2015, the report estimates, while around 3.2 million people have also been displaced internally.

"So-called Islamic State continues to commit systematic and widespread violence and abuses of international human rights law and humanitarian law, " it says.

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"These acts may, in some instances, amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide."

The report documents killings by IS militants "in gruesome public spectacles, including by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings", notes the BBC.

It also notes that up to 900 children have been abducted in the IS-held northern city of Mosul to be indoctrinated and given military training, while both women and children have been subjected to "sexual violence".

The militant group is believed to be holding up to 3,500 people as slaves, mainly women and children and largely from the Yezidi community.

UN human rights chief Zeid Raad Al Hussein said the report "starkly illustrates" what Iraqi refugees are attempting to escape when they flee to Europe and other regions.

"This is the horror they face in their homelands," he said.

He added that the "obscene" casualty figures may not tell the whole story as many civilians had died "from the lack of access to basic food, water or medical care".

The report comes on the back of another UN investigation into the ruined Iraqi city Ramadi, which once housed 500,000 people.

The investigation used satellite imagery to assess the devastation, concluding that more than 3,000 buildings had been damaged and nearly 1,500 destroyed.

Local estimates suggest more than 60 per cent of Ramadi has been destroyed by constant air bombardment and the scorched-earth practices of IS fighters in retreat.

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