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UN says violence in Iraq killed 239 in July

Iraqi Special Operations Forces arrest a person suspected of belonging to Islamic State militants in western Mosul, Iraq, February 26, 2017. Alaa Al-Marjani: "I spotted four suspected Islamic State militants picked out of a group of displaced people by Iraqi soldiers. The suspects had been identified by civilians working with the security forces and wearing masks to protect themselves from possible reprisal by IS. The suspects including the man in this picture were then tossed into the bed of a pickup truck. My picture was significant for our story because it helped illustrate how some militants had secreted themselves among fleeing civilians in hopes of evading capture. Some of them trimmed their bushy beards and changed their clothes in efforts to blend in. I had been covering developments on another front when I saw on social media that a large group of refugees was heading to this location. Not much was happening where I was so I changed cars and headed to the refugee gathering point. The way the suspects were being treated was abnormal so I felt it was very important to document this in pictures. After I took this picture, a military intelligence officer tried to seize my camera and send me away. I was working together with a Reuters correspondent and security adviser, so the officer eventually desisted and allowed me to take further photos. It can be difficult controlling your feelings when taking pictures right at the scene of gunfire and explosions. There is a lot of human suffering, but also a lot of competition with other agencies to get the best photograph in the shortest period of time. My camera is very modern but internet access needed to file our pictures is difficult because most communications towers in the region are down." REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani/File photo SEARCH "MOSUL PICTURES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.

Baghdad: Violence, terrorist acts and armed conflicts across Iraq killed a total of 239 civilians and left wounded 273 others in July, a UN mission said on Tuesday.

“Figures of casualties do not include security members, as the Iraqi military declined to give information about casualties among the troops,” a statement by United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said.

Previous figures of security members’ casualties released by UNAMI were questioned by the Iraqi military as “inaccurate”, while UNAMI responded “the military figures were largely unverified”, Xinhua news agency reported.

Most of the civilian casualties occurred in the province of Nineveh, where 121 were killed and 112 others injured in battles between Iraqi forces and Islamic State (IS) militants in western Mosul.

Condemning the terrorist actions by IS, UN envoy to Iraq and UNAMI chief Jan Kubis said: “The terrorist actions caused enormous suffering to civilians by using them as human shields before the group was crushed in Mosul and victory declared by the government of Iraq on July 10.”

Kubis reiterated his call to protect civilians in the conflict area as the Iraqi forces prepare for further offensive to “liberate the remaining parts of the country from the scourge of Daesh (IS group)”.

The UNAMI statement came as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on July 10 officially declared Mosul’s liberation from IS after nearly nine months of fierce fighting to dislodge the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in Iraq.

—IANS