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Iraq Probes Human Rights Violations    05/24 06:16

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's Interior Ministry said it launched an investigation 
into allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by its forces fighting 
the Islamic State group in Mosul.

   The allegations were first reported by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine last 
weekend. The report, authored by an Iraqi photographer reportedly embedded with 
the police unit, claims he witnessed killing, torture and rape of IS suspects.

   The ministry's spokesman, Brig. Gen Saad Maan, said on Tuesday that the 
newspaper report identifies the Emergency Response Division  an elite unit 
that answers to the Interior Ministry and has been closely backed by the 
U.S.-led coalition in the Mosul fight  as the perpetrator of the abuses. 
Maan did not give a time frame for the investigating but said "legal measures 
will be applied ... against wrongdoers."

   An officer with the ERD reached by The Associated Press said his unit is not 
authorized to comment and that all inquiries should be directed to the Interior 
Ministry. In other developments, Amnesty International released a report on 
Wednesday saying the U.S. Army in Iraq and Kuwait failed to keep track of more 
a $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment provided to forces in 
the fight against IS, according to a 2016 Department of Defense audit obtained 
by the rights group.

   The report "makes for especially sobering reading, given the long history of 
leakage of U.S. arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, 
including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State," said Patrick 
Wilcken, a researcher with Amnesty. Iraq's ERD forces have been closely backed 
by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition in the fight to retake Mosul. 
Coalition forces also shared surveillance and intelligence information with the 
forces to aid in their advances on the city's eastern and western sides.

   Following the Interior Ministry statement, Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy for the 
global coalition against IS, said Iraqi security forces have "bravely placed 
civilian protection as top priority" throughout the Mosul campaign but that 
"individuals or units failing to uphold that standard ... must be investigated 
and held accountable."

   U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are closing in on the last IS held neighborhoods in 
western Mosul nearly three years after the extremists overran almost a third of 
Iraq in 2014. With the help of more than 12,000 airstrikes and $12.5 billion 
dollars in training, logistics and support from the U.S.-led coalition, in 
addition to Iranian training and support, Iraqi forces have retaken more than 
half of the territory IS once held in the country.

   The operation to retake Mosul was launched in October and the city's east 
was declared "fully liberated" in January.


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