As Iraqi-led forces continue to gain territory in Mosul, militants for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, are allegedly turning to abhorrent tactics to hold their ground: using families as human shields to protect themselves from attacks.
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told CNN on Friday that his office was troubled by reports it had received suggesting ISIS militants had forced some 550 families to abandon their homes for Mosul and into the line of fire.
"We are gravely worried by reports that (ISIS) is using civilians in and around Mosul as human shields as the Iraqi forces advance, keeping civilians close to their offices or places where fighters are located, which may result in civilian casualties," Zeid said.
He added that his office is also investigating reports that at least 40 civilians, possibly suspected of disloyalty to ISIS, had been shot dead.
"There is a grave danger that (ISIS) fighters will not only use such vulnerable people as human shields but may opt to kill them rather than see them liberated," he told CNN.
While Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue their efforts to topple ISIS for control of Mosul, Zeid cautioned the Iraqi government to make avoiding loss of civilian life a priority — adding that ISIS, by comparison, "has no regard for human life."
Oct. 24, 2016, 11:59 a.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.