Sporadic clashes continued today in Mosul, a day after Iraq's prime minister declared "total victory" over the Islamic State group and at least one airstrike hit the Old City neighbourhood that was the scene of the fierce battle's final days.
A plume of smoke rose into the air from the strike as IS mortar shells landed near Iraqi positions and heavy gunfire could be heard on the western edge of the Old City.
The developments underscored the dangers still posed by the militants after Iraqi forces announced they retook full control of Mosul, the country's second-largest city, three years after it was seized by extremists bent on building a global caliphate.
Amnesty International warned in a report released today that the conflict in Mosul has created a "civilian catastrophe," with the extremists carrying out forced displacement, summary killings and using civilians as human shields.
The report also detailed violations by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition.
"The scale and gravity of the loss of civilian lives during the military operation to retake Mosul must immediately be publicly acknowledged at the highest levels of government in Iraq and states that are part of the US-led coalition," said Lynn Maalouf, the research director for Mideast at Amnesty.
The report, which covers the first five months of this year, noted how IS fighters moved civilians with them around the city, preventing them from escaping, creating battle spaces with dense civilian populations while "Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition failed to adapt their tactics."
The Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition "continued to use imprecise, explosive weapons with wide area effects in densely populated urban environments," Amnesty stated, adding that some violations may constitute war crimes.
Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi came to Mosul for the second day in a row to declare "total victory."
Flanked by his senior military leadership at a small base on the edge of the Old City, al-Abadi said "this great feast day crowned the victories of the fighters and the Iraqis for the past three years."
But the Iraqi leader also alluded to the brutality of the conflict, saying the triumph had been achieved "by the blood of our martyrs."
In Geneva, the UN human rights chief urged Iraq's government to ensure that human rights will be respected in Mosul.
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described Mosul's fall as the "turning point" in the conflict against IS, but warned the group continues to subject people to "daily horrors" in its remaining strongholds of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, and Hawijah, north of Baghdad.
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