45.000 fled western Mosul battles since start of operations: IOM

A displaced Iraqi man who fled his home from al-Mamoun in Mosul, carries a box at a refugee camp, during the battle against Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, March 2, 2017. REUTERS

Baghdad ( Battles between Iraqi government forces and Islamic State extremists in western Mosul have forced 45.000 people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.

The International Organization of Migration said that were the numbers of people who started to flee the region on February 25th. Security operations seeking to retake the area from militants began on 19th.

This presumably drives the total of displaced civilians since October 2016 beyond the 251.000 recently announced by the Iraqi government. It is an increase from 31.000 refugees from western Mosul counted by the

According to the IOM, more than 17,000 civilians arrived to refugee camps from west Mosul on February 28th alone, while more than 13,000 came on March 3rd.

The United Nations and Iraqi refugee bodies have warned that battles in western Mosul could displace at least 250.000 out of 750.000 estimated to be trapped under IS control in western Mosul. Upon the launch of operations to recapture eastern Mosul last October, the United Nations predicted 1.5 million refugees.

ِA spokesperson of the Iraqi government said last week that over four million people had been displaced inside Iraq since Islamic State took over large areas of Iraq in 2014, adding that the government spent 300 billion dinars since then to cater for refugees.

Islamic State has targeted civilians trying to escape areas under its control in Iraq, and many were killed by landmines planted by the group upon fleeing. The United Nations has also reported of severe food and medical stuff shortages affecting civilians in western Mosul. Iraqi security officials have, meanwhile, detected instances where IS militants tried to flee battles in the middle of refugee groups.

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