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Saturday
Mar112017

American aid group braves sniper fire, explosions amid Iraqi battle with ISIS 

Preemptive Love Coalition(MOSUL, Iraq) -- An airstrike saved his life.

An American aid group that has waded into battle-torn west Mosul, Iraq, to help civilians as government forces fight to expel ISIS from the area, told ABC News harrowing accounts from residents of the city.

One man, identified by only his first name, Mohammad, arrived at an aid distribution point in the city shortly after an ISIS fighter tried to execute him, he told the aid group, Preemptive Love Coalition.

The fighter pointed his gun at him, but an airstrike hit, killing the ISIS militant, the man told the aid organization. Mohammad survived and escaped the area where ISIS fighters were executing civilians.

“I swear to God, I saw them with my own eyes executing people,” Mohammad told the aid group, as recounted to ABC News. “A boy who was trying to come to this side — they sat him down and shot him dead.“

Preemptive Love Coalition, operating just streets away from areas strewn by sniper fire and bombardments, said it is the first organization to deliver food to civilians deep in areas of west Mosul that up until a few days ago were under ISIS control. The group follows closely behind U.S.-backed Iraqi forces as they advance deeper into west Mosul in the operation to retake the city entirely from ISIS.

"There are still tens of thousands of people in the liberated areas and hundreds of thousands of people under ISIS control right now who are still living in their homes, and they are calling for us as the aid community to reach into the conflict so that we can serve them where they are," Jeremy Courtney, CEO of the Preemptive Love Coalition, told ABC News in a voice recording.

The group delivered food to about 12,000 people in western Mosul on Wednesday.

Residents told the organization that Wednesday’s delivery was the first aid they had received. Some children cheered and said “We got it! We got it!” when they saw their father receive a package of food, the group said..

“We’ve got airstrikes and gunshots and helicopters overhead,” Courtney said in a video clip from inside west Mosul during the aid distribution as gunfire and explosions could be heard in the background.

Courtney described the aid distribution as “chaotic” and "representative of the chaos of the neighborhood and the difficulty of reaching people in those places.” People had to haggle with their neighbors to make sure that everyone got the food that they needed, he said.

“No aid has reached any of these people,” he said in the video, adding that thousands of people were fleeing, but that thousands were also choosing to stay in their homes.

The residents who received aid on Wednesday had been living under ISIS control for years until just a few days ago, Courtney said. Some had not had food for about a month while water has been shut off for three months, he said.

Several of them shared stories with the aid group of life under ISIS' control.

One woman, a school teacher, told the aid workers that a Russian ISIS fighter was forcing her 16-year-old daughter to marry him. She pleaded for her daughter’s life and begged the fighter to take her instead, she said.

Two boys, brothers, told Courtney that ISIS destroyed everything. “They even stole our chocolate,” they told Courtney.

“Certainly, these kids saw much more horrible things than that, but the idea that all sweetness had been stolen from their life was a very sad refrain that we hear over and over and over again,” Courtney said.

Three weeks ago, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake the western part of Mosul from ISIS.

Iraqi forces are advancing deeper into the western part of the city, but ISIS militants are fighting back with snipers and suicide bombers. Western mosul is the group’s last major stronghold in Iraq.

The United Nations has expressed “serious concerns” about 750,000 to 800,000 civilians who were estimated to be living in western Mosul prior to the conflict.

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