Over 700,000 civilians displaced from western Mosul since February: Ministry

Displaced Iraqi men wait in a truck to be transported to a camp as the battle between the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service and Islamic State militants continues nearby, in western Mosul, Iraq, April 23, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Mosul ( More than 700,000 civilians have been displaced since beginning of offensives in western Mosul, the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement said.

In a statement on Wednesday, the ministry “urged all ministries and authorities to make best efforts to return life back to normal in the western side of the city.”

“Residents of western Mosul cannot stay at camps, while most of the districts were liberated months ago,” it added.

Earlier this month, the ministry estimated the number of civilians displaced from Nineveh province since 2016 at 819,000, while number of the displaced since launch of offensives in western Mosul reached 642,000 civilians.

Civilians, meanwhile, resumed fleeing the Old City districts, where confrontations have been ongoing over the past few days.

Cap. Jabbar Hassan, of the Iraqi army, said “troops of the army’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service evacuated on Tuesday evening 360 civilians from the vicinity of the Grand Nuri al-Kabeer mosque.

He indicated difficulties with evacuation as Islamic State militants detain hundreds of civilians inside houses to use them as human shields to hamper progress of security troops.

According to governmental figures, more than four million citizens were displaced due to the war against Islamic State militants in Iraq since January 2014, according to Iraqi government figures.

The Old City are the biggest challenge for Iraqi troops to complete liberation of the city due to its densely-populated yet narrow alleyways, which makes it hard to military vehicles to invade. It is home to the Grand Nuri al-Kabeer mosque, where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his self-styled “caliphate” covering parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Iraqi troops were able to retake the eastern side of Mosul in January, one month after another major offensive was launched to retake the western side.

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