The Islamic State terrorist group has kidnapped nearly 200 children and reportedly plans to use them as human shields in its battle against Iraqi-led coalition forces in Mosul.
According to the watchdog organization Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR), IS (also known as ISIS or ISIL) recently captured 197 children in western Mosul.
The organization took to Twitter on Saturday to sound the alarm about IS' abduction of the children, stating that they were taken near the al-Nouri Grand Mosque in west Mosul.
According to the Erbil-based BasNews.com, a source said that the militants intend to use the abducted children as human shields to stand in the way of the advancing coalition troops. IS has been known to use civilians as human shields in Iraq to make it difficult for advancing government troops.
The news comes as the coalition forces launched an offensive last fall to push IS out of Mosul. While the coalition has liberated the eastern parts of Mosul and the surrounding areas, a campaign was launched in February to boot the militants from Mosul's Old City and western districts.
But as the number of civilians who have been killed during the Mosul offensive continue to climb, it was announced on Saturday that Iraqi security forces have temporarily suspended operations to spare civilian lives.
Nearly 4,000 civilians have been killed in densely populated areas since the beginning of the campaign to liberate western Mosul.
Iraqi Brig. Gen. Thaer al-Mosawi told the Turkish Anadolu Agency last week that as many as 3,846 civilian deaths have occurred since the battle in Western Mosul began in mid-February. IOHR cited the same number in a graphic posted to Twitter.
"Those who have fled the combat areas are reporting high civilian casualties," al-Mosawi explained.
Additionally, al-Mosawi said that over 22,000 Mosul residents have been injured in the conflict, while over 10,000 homes have been destroyed.
It was reported over the weekend that a United States-led air strike on an IS truck filled with explosives caused the deaths of dozens of civilians in Mosul on March 17.
The U.S. military acknowledged on Saturday that it conducted the reported March 17 airstrike in the Mosul suburb of Mosul al-Jadida.
Although reports suggest that the U.S.-led airstrike could have killed as many as 200 people, Col. Muntathar Al-Shamari, the head of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Unit in Mosul, told CNN that estimate is probably an exaggeration.
"When the [vehicle] was struck, it exploded, destroying one or two of the houses next to where families were hiding," Shamari stated.
Regardless, the U.S. is investigating the reports, as the death toll from the strike still has yet to be confirmed.
According to New York Magazine, residents said that a building in which the basement was being used to shelter over 100 civilians collapsed as a result of the strike.
In addition to the deadly airstrike in Mosul, the U.S. military also reportedly conducted a strike against IS that killed over 30 civilians in Raqqa, Syria, last Tuesday. The U.S. acknowledged to having carried out as many as 19 airstrikes on IS buildings in Raqqa on that day.