UN Secretary General starts official visit to Iraq

Iraqi forces launched a major operation on Mosul in October, retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on the smaller, but more densely-populated, west.

A spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) said Guterres would meet the Iraqi president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker before heading north to visit camps sheltering people displaced by the Mosul conflict.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated on Tuesday that at least 307 civilians had been killed and 273 injured in the area near Mosul between February 17 and March 22, as Daesh militants continue to use civilians as human shields in the fight against Iraqi government forces.

A suicide truck bomb targeted a police checkpoint in southern Baghdad on Wednesday night, killing 15 people and wounding 45, according to Iraqi officials.

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Amnesty's Donatella Rovera said field research in east Mosul - which was recaptured from IS in January - showed "an alarming pattern of US-led coalition air strikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside". Amid reports of dozens civilians killed by airstrikes in Mosul, the statement said that "protection of civilians must be the absolute priority". "We are in the final stage of liberating Mosul and our forces are exerting their utmost efforts to protect the civilians", Abadi said.

The militants have suffered a string of defeats over the past two years in the lead-up to the Mosul operation, but have continued to regularly launch attacks in and around Baghdad.

Iraqi and coalition officials have repeatedly warned that after Mosul, IS is likely to return to its insurgent roots as it loses more territory in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

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