TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Residents of Mosul said the Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) terrorist group was using civilians as human shields as Iraqi and Kurdish forces captured outlying villages in their advance on the militants’ stronghold.

With attacking forces still between 20 and 50 kilometers away, residents reached by telephone said more than 100 families had started moving from southern and eastern suburbs most exposed to the offensive to more central parts of the city, The Daily Star reported on Wednesday.

Daesh militants were preventing people fleeing Mosul and one said they directed some toward buildings they had recently used themselves.

“It’s quite clear Daesh has started to use civilians as human shields by allowing families to stay in buildings likely to be targeted by airstrikes,” said Abu Mahir, who lives near the city’s university.

Around 1.5 million people still live in Mosul and the International Organization for Migration said Daesh may use tens of thousands of residents as human shields to hold onto their last city stronghold in Iraq.

The IOM said there was a likelihood of chemical attacks by the terrorists, who had used such weapons before against Iraqi Kurdish forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said safe routes had been secured for civilians who wanted to leave Mosul.

Wednesday marks the third day of military operations by the Iraqi army, volunteer Shiite and Sunni fighters as well as Kurdish Peshmerga forces to liberate the city of Mosul, the last stronghold of Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, which they overran in June 2014.