Hundreds of people flee Mosul as Iraqi forces gain more ground

The exodus from Mosul continued as Iraqi forces retook two more western districts from Daesh.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

As of April 20, some 503,000 people have been displaced from Mosul, of which 91,000 have returned, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said.

Pushing carts loaded with bags, babies and the elderly, hundreds of people fled Mosul on Saturday after Iraqi forces retook two more districts in the west of the city from Daesh.

After walking for miles, families were taken by bus from a government checkpoint in the south of the city to camps housing more than 410,000 people displaced since the offensive to retake Mosul began in October.

"We left with no water, food or electricity," said 63-year-old Abu Qahtan, the elder of a group of 41 people from five families. "We left with the clothes on our backs."

Members of a displaced Iraqi family walk towards safety after fleeing a battle between the Iraqi rapid response forces and Daesh fighters in western Mosul. Source: Reuters

Iraqi forces have taken much of Mosul from Daesh since it overran the city in June 2014. The military now controls the eastern districts and are making advances in the west.

Daesh fighters, holding out in the Old City, are surrounded in the northwest and are using booby traps, sniper and mortar fire to defend themselves.

On Saturday, artillery and gun fire could be heard as families arrived from Hay al Tanak district which they said was still half controlled by the Daesh.

Residents who have managed to escape from the Old City have said there is almost nothing to eat but flour mixed with water and boiled wheat grain. Source: Reuters

Troops, backed by helicopters, were moving towards the al Nuri mosque where, nearly three years ago, Daesh leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi announced his self-declared caliphate spanning parts of Iraq and Syria. Heavy smoke could be seen in that area after an air strike, witnesses said.

The US-trained Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) has retaken the nearby al Thaura and al Saha districts, statements said.

CTS commander Major General Maan Saadi said his troops were linking up with Iraq's Federal Police moving in on the Old City from a different position.

The battle to free Mosul of Daesh is now in its seventh month. Source: Reuters

Saadi said his forces were "completing the encirclement" of Daesh fighters in the Old City.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped in western Mosul, where Iraqi forces are making slow progress against Daesh in what is a labyrinth of narrow streets.

As of April 20, some 503,000 people have been displaced from Mosul, of which 91,000 have returned, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said, citing government figures.

Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, is the Daesh's last urban stronghold in the country.

TRTWorld and agencies