Iraq’s PM orders end to shelling civilian areas


Iraq’s new prime minister, Haidar al-Abadi, said on Saturday he had ordered a halt to the bombardment of populated areas in a bid to minimise civilian casualties.



“I have ordered the Iraqi Air Force to halt (the) shelling of civilian areas, even in those towns controlled by ISIS,” he said, using one of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group’s old acronyms.


Speaking at a conference in support of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have been displaced by the violence, he added: “But the government will not relent in its efforts to hunt down IS members wherever they are.”


His predecessor Nuri al-Maliki had been criticised for authorising air raids on densely populated areas as part of operations to oust IS from regions it had conquered.


In late July, Human Rights Watch warned that government air strikes were “wreaking an awful toll on ordinary residents”.


It had also urged the government to stop resorting to “barrel bombs” — crude devices stuffed with fertiliser, shrapnel or any improvised explosive mix — that are much cheaper than conventional weapons but less accurate.


The United Nations’ top envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, welcomed Saturday’s announcement by Abadi.


“Iraq is facing a humanitarian catastrophe of immense proportion with exponentially rising numbers of displaced people, that should be settled in accordance with the citizens’ human rights,” he said.


One of Iraq’s main Sunni parties, Mutahidoon, also welcomed Abadi’s move, arguing that it would help turn residents in Sunni areas against the Islamic State.


“The prime minister issued his decision to halt shelling civilian areas and this will definitely help isolate terrorist groups and lead them to be targeted by the people of the area itself,” a statement said.

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