The Latest: UN alarmed at Islamic State using human shields

BAGHDAD (AP) " The Latest on the Iraqi forces' offensive to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul (all times local):

10:30 p.m.

The U.N. Security Council is expressing alarm at reports that Islamic State extremists are removing civilians from their homes and relocating them to act as human shields in Mosul.

The council condemned the use of human shields and urged all parties to avoid harming civilians and civilian facilities.

Council members said in a statement Wednesday after their first briefing on the Iraqi military campaign to liberate Mosul from Islamic State control that they don't want to see IS fighters fleeing across the border to Syria.

The council statement, however, made no mention of support for the Iraqi military effort, which Iraq's U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim had sought. Senegal, which holds the council presidency this month, said that issue is still under discussion.

Council members did express "strong support" for the coordinated efforts of the United Nations and the Iraqi government to address the humanitarian crisis.

They urged all countries to contribute to the underfunded U.N. appeal to help those displaced as the military operation continues.

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5:20 p.m.

A spokesman for a leading Shiite militia says its fighters have gained control of a highway linking the Islamic State group-held city of Mosul to the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the militants' self-proclaimed caliphate.

The spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades, Jaafar al-Husseini, said Wednesday that his troops are now cutting the main supply line to the militants.

Earlier this week, Shiite militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Units, joined the operation to retake Mosul from IS. They say they will not enter the city of Mosul and will instead focus on retaking Tal Afar, a town to the west that had a Shiite majority before it fell to IS in 2014.

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3:45 p.m.

An Iraqi officer says troops have killed eight Islamic State group militants while carrying out house-to-house clearances in the newly-recaptured neighborhood of Gogjali in eastern Mosul.

Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Timimi of the Iraqi special forces tells The Associated Press Wednesday that six of the militants were killed inside a tunnel. He says the other two militants attempted to approach the troops and were shot dead.

One of the militants was wearing an explosives-laden vest.

Meanwhile, hundreds of civilians streamed out of the adjacent neighborhood of al-Samah, some holding white flags. All the women wore niqab, a veil that entirely covers the face or only has a small, slit-like opening for the eyes. All of the men were bearded

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3:20 p.m.

A human rights watchdog says government-sanctioned tribal Sunni militia taking part in the military operation to retake the Islamic State group stronghold of Mosul have carried out revenge attacks against men and boys in areas recently recaptured from the militants.

London-based Amnesty International said in a statement on Wednesday that fighters from the Sab'awi tribe unlawfully rounded up civilians, beat them with metal rods, gave them electric shocks, placed them in cages and tied some of them to the bonnets of vehicles before parading them through the streets.

The allegations are based on interviews with local officials and eyewitnesses, who said the violations took place in a group of villages located on the south-eastern bank of the Tigris river and under the control of the Sab'wai tribal militia.

Lynn Maalouf, deputy director for research at Amnesty International's Beirut office, describes the violations as "crimes under international law" and adds that Iraqi authorities "must rein in the tribal militia fighters responsible and bring them to justice."

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1:50 p.m.

Iraqi forces say they are advancing on the southern approach to the Islamic State-held city of Mosul, a front where they have been making slower progress than to the east.

The Commandeer of the Mosul Operation, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Raheed Yar Allah, says in a statement that Federal Police Forces have retaken four villages near Hamam al-Alil area.

A spokesman for the Joint Military Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, confirmed that the operation happened on Wednesday morning.

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12:20 p.m.

Iraqi special forces are going house-to-house in Mosul's easternmost neighborhood of Gogjali where sappers are searching roads for explosives and booby traps Islamic State militants could have left behind before they were driven out a day earlier.

Gen. Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, the top counterterrorism forces commander, says the special forces had imposed a curfew in the neighborhood while gains there are being consolidated.

Al-Asadi says that "we fear that Daesh militants could attack our forces or the town with mortars." Daesh is the Arabic acronym for IS.

The general also says that "for the safety of the families, we ask them to stay inside their houses." He spoke in Bartella, some 15 kilometers, or 9 miles, behind the front lines.

Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil says Iraqi special forces arrested three suspected Daesh militants in the area of Gogjali.

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10:30 a.m.

An aid agency is warning that the lives of more than 1 million civilians trapped inside the Islamic State-held Mosul "are in grave danger" as Iraqi troops advance and set foot inside the city where fighting is expected to intensify.

The Norwegian Refugee Council, which works with refugees and internally displaced Iraqis, says that around 18,000 Iraqis have fled their homes since the start of the massive military operation to retake Mosul over two weeks ago.

The council's Iraq chief, Wolfgang Gressmann, says the agency's aid workers "are now bracing ... for the worst. The lives of 1.2 million civilians are in grave danger, and the future of all of Iraq is now in the balance."

In their battle for Mosul, Iraqi forces for the first time in two years on Tuesday entered the eastern Gogjali and Karama neighborhoods inside Mosul's city limits.

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10:10 a.m.

An Iraqi special forces general says his troops are holding their positions along Mosul's eastern outskirts as poor weather hampers visibility in operations to rout Islamic State fighters from the country's second-largest city.

Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil says no advances are planned for Wednesday, as high humidity and clouds obscure the view of aircraft and drones.

From the Mosul neighborhood of Gogjali, which is inside city limits but just outside more urban districts, the guns have gone largely silent, although sporadic rifle cracks could be heard as well as some army artillery fire on IS positions.

The pause comes after Iraqi troops on Tuesday set foot in the city for the first time in more than two years, gearing up for urban warfare expected to take weeks, if not months.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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