40,000 Leave Mosul in a Week Amid Fresh Push Against IS

An Iraqi family walks from IS-controlled part of Mosul toward Iraqi Special Forces on March 4.An Iraqi family walks from IS-controlled part of Mosul toward Iraqi Special Forces on March 4.

More than 40,000 people have been displaced in the last week from the Iraqi city of Mosul, where US-backed forces launched a fresh push towards the old city center held by the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group on Sunday and closed in on the main government complex.

The pace of displacement has accelerated in recent days as fighting approaches the most densely populated parts of western Mosul and aid agencies have expressed concern that camps to accommodate people fleeing the city are almost full, Reuters reported.

The International Organization for Migration’s Mosul Displacement Tracking Matrix showed the number of people uprooted since the start of the offensive in October exceeded 206,000 on Sunday, up from 164,000 on February 26.

That number may still rise sharply. The United Nations last month warned that more than half the remaining population in western Mosul could be displaced.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris River on February 19.

Defeating IS in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria.

Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate from Mosul’s Nuri Mosque in the old city center that is still under his followers’ control.

  Renewed Attack

Rapid Response units and Counter Terrorism Service forces launched a fresh push into the city on Sunday after a 48-hour pause due to bad weather that hampered air surveillance, facilitating counter-attacks by the militants.

Rapid Response teams are “very close” to the government buildings near the old city, said a senior media officer with the elite Interior Ministry units.

Their progress was met with heavy sniper and mortar fire, a Reuters’ photographer reported from Mosul.

“The complex, which houses the Nineveh Provincial Council and the Nineveh Governorate buildings, should be taken on Monday,” Lt. Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammadawi told Reuters.

Recapturing the site would help Iraqi forces attack the militants in the nearby old city. It would also mark a symbolic step toward restoring state authority over Mosul, even though the buildings are destroyed and not being used by IS.

The Iraqi military believes several thousand militants, including many who traveled from western countries, are hunkered down among the remaining civilian population, which aid agencies estimated to number 750,000 in western Mosul at the start of the latest offensive.

Several thousand people have been killed or wounded so far in the Mosul offensive, both civilians and military, according to aid organizations.


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