Trapped Mosul civilians could face worst catastrophe of Iraq conflict, U.N. warns | Reuters

By Maher Chmaytelli | ERBIL, Iraq ERBIL, Iraq The battle to dislodge Islamic State from the Old City of Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are trapped, could turn into the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the war against the militants, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.About 400,000 civilians, or a quarter of Mosul's pre-war population, are trapped in the Old City, according to U.N.

Reuters April 18, 2017 21:53:00 IST
Trapped Mosul civilians could face worst catastrophe of Iraq conflict, U.N. warns
| Reuters

Trapped Mosul civilians could face worst catastrophe of Iraq conflict UN warns
 Reuters

By Maher Chmaytelli
| ERBIL, Iraq

ERBIL, Iraq The battle to dislodge Islamic State from the Old City of Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are trapped, could turn into the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the war against the militants, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.About 400,000 civilians, or a quarter of Mosul's pre-war population, are trapped in the Old City, according to U.N. estimates. As many as half a million are estimated to remain overall in neighbourhoods still under IS control in western Mosul."If there is a siege and hundreds of thousands of people don’t have water and don’t have food, they will be at enormous risk," U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters in a telephone interview."We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict."Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, was captured by the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in mid-2014. Iraqi government forces have taken back most of it in a U.S.-backed offensive launched in October, including the half that lies east of the Tigris River.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, countering the offensive with booby traps, suicide motorbike attacks, sniper and mortar fire, occasionally using shells filled with toxic gas. "It is a deteriorating situation, we fear for the lives of the 400,000 people in the old city," said Grande. "Families ... tell us that they are being shot at as they are escaping. It’s terrifying."

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. What little food remains is too expensive for most residents to afford, or kept for Islamic State members and their supporters.Government forces are trying to capture the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanning parts of Iraq and Syria nearly three years ago.

Troops have had the mosque, with its leaning minaret, in their sights since last month. But their progress has been painstakingly slow as the militants are dug in among civilians.The narrow alleyways of the Old City restrict the use of suicide cars by the militants and tanks, armoured personnel carriers and Humvees by the government forces.The fighting has killed several thousands among civilians and fighters on both sides, according to aid organisations. More than 327,000 have fled in the past six months."The security forces know the situation on the ground and they need to decide how this is best done, whether by evacuating civilians or protecting them in their homes or opening routes they can escape through," said Grande. (Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

Greek police clash with protesters in rally against mandatory vaccinations
World

Greek police clash with protesters in rally against mandatory vaccinations

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police used teargas and water cannon to disperse people who had gathered in central Athens on Saturday to protest against mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations. More than 4,000 people rallied outside the Greek parliament for a third time this month to oppose mandatory inoculations for some workers, such as healthcare and nursing staff.

Two Turkish soldiers killed in attack in northern Syria
World

Two Turkish soldiers killed in attack in northern Syria

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Two Turkish soldiers were killed and two were wounded in an attack on their armoured vehicle in northern Syria, and Turkish forces immediately launched retaliatory fire, Turkey's defence ministry said on Saturday. "Our punitive fire against terrorist positions is continuing," the statement on Twitter on said. It did not specify where the attack occurred, but media reports said it was in the al-Bab area.

Brazilians take to streets again to demand Bolsonaro's impeachment
World

Brazilians take to streets again to demand Bolsonaro's impeachment

By Marcelo Rochabrun SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Protesters took to the streets in several Brazilian cities on Saturday to demand the impeachment of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, whose popularity has fallen in recent weeks amid corruption scandals against the backdrop of the pandemic. This week, news broke that Brazil's defense ministry told congressional leadership that next year's elections would not take place without amending the country's electronic voting system to include a paper trail of each vote. Bolsonaro has suggested several times without evidence that the current system is prone to fraud, allegations that Brazil's government has denied