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Aug 30, 4:14 AM EDT

An International human rights group says Iraqi militias are recruiting children from camps for civilians displaced by conflict ahead of the long-awaited operation to retake militant-held Mosul


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The air base that Iraqi forces hope to use as a staging area to take Mosul back from the Islamic State group was almost completely destroyed by the retreating militants, raising new doubts over whether the long-awaited operation will begin this year

An International human rights group says Iraqi militias are recruiting children from camps for civilians displaced by conflict ahead of the long-awaited operation to retake militant-held Mosul

The skies above this small northern Iraqi town are black with smoke and a white ash rains down from the more than a dozen oil wells that Islamic State group fighter set ablaze as Iraqi troops moved in to retake Qayara last week

German prosecutors say they have charged a 27-year-old former Iraqi soldier with war crimes on allegations he posed for a photo holding the severed heads of two Islamic State fighters killed in combat

Recent political upheaval has left Iraq without a minister of defense or interior as the country prepares for the operation to retake Mosul _ expected to be the most complicated yet in the fight against IS.

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IRBIL, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi militias are recruiting children from camps for civilians displaced by conflict ahead of the long-awaited operation to retake militant-held Mosul, according to a report from Human Rights Watch Tuesday.

Citing testimony from witnesses and relatives, HRW said two tribal militias in the Kurdish region of Iraq recruited children from a camp south of Irbil and drove them away to a town near Mosul.

The group said the recruits are intended to reinforce frontline positions against the Islamic State group in Nineveh province, where Mosul is located.

IS uses children as both frontline fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq and Syria. The group maintains an army of child soldiers, which it calls "cubs of the caliphate." Islamic State videos have shown boys killing IS opponents through beheadings and shootings.

"The (Iraqi) government and its foreign allies need to take action now, or children are going to be fighting on both sides in Mosul," Bill Van Esveld of Human Rights Watch stated in the group's report.

Iraq's prime minister has pledged that Mosul will be retaken from IS this year. After a string of territorial defeats over the past year, Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is the last major urban territory IS holds in the country.

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