Islamic State may be harvesting organs, Iraq envoy to U.N. says

AP, Reuters

Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations asked the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to look into allegations the Islamic State group is using organ harvesting to finance its operations.

Ambassador Mohamed Alhakim told reporters that in the past few weeks, bodies with surgical incisions and missing kidneys or other body parts have been found in shallow mass graves.

“We have bodies. Come and examine them,” he said. “It is clear they are missing certain parts.”

He also said a dozen doctors have been “executed” in Mosul, the largest Islamic State-controlled city in Iraq, for refusing to participate in organ harvesting.

Alhakim briefed the council on the overall situation in Iraq and accused the Islamic State group of “crimes of genocide” in targeting certain ethnic groups.

The outgoing U.N. envoy to Iraq, Nikolay Mladenov, told the council that 790 people were killed in January alone by terrorism and armed conflict in the country.

Mladenov noted the increasing number of reports and allegations that the Islamic State group is using organ harvesting as a financing method, but he said only that “it’s very clear that the tactics ISIL is using expand by the day.” ISIL is an acronym for the jihadi group.

He said Iraq’s most pressing goal is to win back the vast territory that the Islamic State group has seized in the past year. The Sunni militants seized a third of both Iraq and neighboring Syria and imposed strict Shariah law.

“Especially worrying is the increasing number of reports of revenge attacks committed particularly against members of the Sunni community in areas liberated from ISIL control,” Mladenov said.

Elsewhere, Human Rights Watch has called the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by an Islamic State group affiliate in Libya a war crime. The New York-based international organization called Tuesday on Libya and the United Nations to catch and prosecute the militants who published a video of the beheadings on Sunday.

It called in a statement for the U.N. to create an investigative mechanism or appoint a special rapporteur for Libya, and for the International Criminal Court to examine the killings.

The watchdog said the murder of civilians by combatants in an armed conflict is a war crime. It says Coptic Christians have been targeted by militants in Libya as they carry goods from Egypt. At least three Libyan groups have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group over the past year.

The beheadings of the 21 Egyptians prompted Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to order his nation’s air force to bomb Islamic State targets in Libya. In an interview aired Tuesday, el-Sissi also called for a United Nations resolution mandating an international coalition to intervene in the country.

“There is no other choice, taking into account the agreement of the Libyan people and government and that they call on us to act,” he told France’s Europe 1 radio. “We have to work together to defeat terrorism.”

El-Sissi said a 2011 NATO operation, which played a critical role in toppling former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, was an “unfinished mission.” The Western alliance imposed a no-fly zone on Libya and used air power to try to prevent Gadhafi’s forces attacking civilian areas held by rebels. But it then did little to prevent the country sliding into anarchy and chaos.

“We abandoned the Libyan people as prisoners to extremist militias,” the Egyptian president said.

Ahead of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Wednesday on the situation in Libya, Egypt’s foreign minister met Tuesday with ambassadors from the council’s five veto-wielding powers — the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki noted the U.N. meeting and said, “Obviously, we all have a concern about the threat of (the Islamic State group) and there will be a range of proposals put out there, but we’re not going to get ahead of any process.”

The United States, Italy, France, Britain, Spain and Germany issued a statement on Tuesday saying a U.N.-led process to establish a national unity government in Libya provided the best hope for confronting the country’s violence and instability.

Libya is separated from the Italian island of Sicily by only a few hundred kilometers of sea, and has been the launch point in recent years for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle East migrants seeking a better life in Europe.

Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti have both said Rome would be ready to join any military intervention, but Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has struck a more cautious note.

El-Sissi urged the outside world to send weapons to Libya’s internationally recognized government, which is based in the eastern city of Bayda after rivals seized power in Tripoli. The Bayda government has also asked for the lifting of an arms embargo to help it take back control of the country.