ISIS Is Gunning Down Children Among Hundreds of Fleeing Civilians in Mosul, Says U.N.

The United Nations has warned of worsening civilian fatalities in the contested Iraqi city of Mosul and says over 200 have died in the past week alone. In a statement released Thursday, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said it has received “credible” reports indicating that the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) has increased its targeting of Iraqi civilians, including children.

Though government troops have managed to retake part of the city, people remain trapped in the west, currently held by ISIS. Since May 26, ISIS has killed more than 231 people as they attempted to flee the troubled area.

That day, the group reportedly shot and killed 27 people, among them five children, as they attempted to escape the al-Shifa neighborhood in western Mosul. On June 1, the militants reportedly killed a further 163 civilians who were fleeing fighting between ISIS and Iraqi government forces in al-Shifa. Two days later, ISIS killed a further 41 al-Shifa residents, according to the report.

The U.N. referred to the deaths as war crimes and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “Shooting children as they try to run to safety with their families—there are no words of condemnation strong enough for such despicable acts.”

The reports from al-Shifa are not the only recent incidents of civilian deaths in Mosul. The U.N. is investigating reports that an airstrike on Zanjilly, also in the west, killed 50 to 80 civilians on May 31, though the U.N. does not know who was responsible for it.

Iraqi-led forces recaptured eastern Mosul back in January, wresting control over the city from ISIS, which had held it since June 2014. On May 27, troops began a push to take western Mosul where 200,000 people are believed to be trapped.

As ISIS tries to retain the final chunk of Mosul, it is facing attacks on other fronts. On June 3, the group surrendered the northwestern Iraqi town of Baaj, near to Mosul. In neighboring Syria, it is attempting to fend off attempts by U.S.-backed Syrian forces to regain Raqqa, the capital of its so-called caliphate.