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US-trained Iraqi unit carried out Mosul executions: HRW
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) July 27, 2017

US military cuts ties with Syrian rebel group
Washington (AFP) July 27, 2017 - The Pentagon is cutting ties with a group of Syrian opposition fighters after they started targeting regime forces instead of the Islamic State group, officials said Thursday.

The group, known as Shuhada Al-Qaryatayn, had been receiving training and weapons from US-led coalition forces in southern Syria.

They "unilaterally, without US or coalition permission or coordination," conducted patrols outside a specified zone and engaged in "activities not focused on fighting ISIS," coalition spokesman Colonel Ryan Dillon.

The group have been "important partners in the fight against ISIS in southern Syria. However, the coalition will no longer support their operations," Dillon added.

Shuhada Al-Qaryatayn are based in the area around Al-Tanf, where the coalition operates a training garrison near the border crossing with Jordan.

Dillon said the coalition would attempt to retrieve the military equipment that had been provided to the group.

He did not say how many fighters were in the group.

An Iraqi army division trained by American forces summarily executed prisoners in west Mosul, Human Rights Watch charged Thursday, calling for US assistance to the unit to be suspended.

The latest report of executions comes after the release of videos allegedly filmed in the Mosul area that appeared to show Iraqi forces executing one detainee and brutally beating others.

Iraq declared victory in Mosul on July 11, but abuses by security forces and the anger they stoke could pose a potentially major threat to long-term stability in an area that was only just recaptured from the Islamic State group of Sunni extremists.

"An Iraqi army division trained by the United States government allegedly executed several dozen prisoners in Mosul's Old City," HRW said in a statement, referring to an area on its western side.

"Two international observers detailed the summary killings of four people by the Iraqi army's 16th Division in mid-July 2017, and saw evidence that the unit had executed many more people, including a boy," the watchdog said.

The international US-led coalition against IS has provided training, advice and other assistance to various Iraqi units.

"The US government should make sure it is no longer providing assistance to the Iraqi unit responsible for this spate of executions," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's Middle East director, said in the statement.

The coalition said it could not confirm the allegations, but that they should be investigated.

"While we cannot verify the authenticity of reports, any violation of the law of armed conflict would be unacceptable and should be investigated in a transparent manner and those deemed responsible held accountable in accordance with due process and Iraqi law," it said in an emailed response to questions from AFP.

The coalition confirmed that it had trained, advised and equipped the 16th Division, and said: "In certain circumstances, if a supported units fails to remain compliant with vetting guidelines, support may be withdrawn."

Earlier in July, HRW found a series of videos posted online that appeared to show other abuses by Iraqi forces in the Mosul area.

In one clip, men in Iraqi army uniforms beat a bearded detainee, dragged him to the edge of a cliff, threw him off and shot him and another body at the bottom.

Three other videos show men in army and police uniforms beating detainees.

Earlier in the Mosul operation, an Iraqi journalist embedded with the Rapid Response Division reported that members of the special forces unit carried out torture, rapes and killings.

The journalist, who has since left Iraq, documented some of the abuses on film.

IS overran Mosul and swathes of other territory in the summer of 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

Widespread anger among Iraqi Sunni Arabs -- over issues including abuses by security forces of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad -- helped aid the jihadist resurgence which culminated in the 2014 offensive.

Abuses by security forces now are likewise a boon to IS, which is thought likely to increasingly revert to bombings and hit-and-run attacks as its statehood project straddling Iraq and Syria continues to fall apart.

Cardinal hails 'rebirth' of Iraqi Christian town
Qaraqosh, Iraq (AFP) July 24, 2017
A French cardinal hailed the "rebirth" of Iraq's devastated main Christian town of Qaraqosh on Monday, where residents are returning following two years of jihadist rule. Taking part in mass in the town's cathedral, Lyon's Archbishop Cardinal Philippe Barbarin spoke of both "sadness" and "hope" on returning to the town, which he had previously visited just a month before the Islamic State g ... read more

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