8,000 people escape western Mosul since offensive – UN

More than 100,000 displaced Afghans, returnees in desperate plight – UN
United Nations
United Bank for Africa

The UN on Tuesday said around 8,000 people have fled from western Mosul and surrounding areas since Iraqi forces launched an offensive to dislodge Islamic State (IS) militants from the area.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Iraqis escaped to locations south of Mosul.

OCHA added that those who escaped were “often exhausted and dehydrated.”

The government launched the offensive on the western part of Mosul on Feb. 19, almost a month after they forced the extremists out of the eastern side of the city.

Newsverge reports that U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched a large-scale military operation to dislodge IS militants from the western half of Mosul city, which has been in the hands of extremists since 2014.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operation on state TV, saying government forces were moving to “liberate the people of Mosul from Daesh oppression and terrorism forever”, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Al-Abadi called on security forces to deal with civilians properly and respect human rights.

U.S.-led coalition jets struck militant positions southwest of Mosul early Sunday morning (local time) and militarised police fired artillery toward the city.

Heavily armed police units were getting ready to move north with their armoured vehicles from a base just southwest of the city.

Shortly after the announcement, the UN warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped inside their houses were “at extreme risk” with dwindling fuel and food supplies and scare drinking water and electricity.

Eastern Mosul was retaken from IS by Iraqi forces last month after a three-month battle, but the west of the city remains in the hands of the extremists.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the last IS urban stronghold in the country, fell into the hands of the extremists in the summer of 2014, when the group captured large swaths of northern and western Iraq.