Over 45,000 displaced by west Mosul fighting: IOM

Displaced Iraqis flee their homes, as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq on March 5, 2017.
Displaced Iraqis flee their homes, as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq on March 5, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BAGHDAD (AFP) – The battle to retake west Mosul from extremists has pushed more than 45,000 people to flee, the International Organisation for Migration said on Sunday (March 5).

On two occasions since Iraqi forces launched a major push to retake west Mosul from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group on Feb 19, more than 10,000 people have arrived in a single day at sites for the displaced, according to IOM figures. 

Meanwhile in Syria a total of 66,000 people have been displaced by fighting along two fronts in the country's fractured north, the United Nation’s humanitarian coordination agency (OCHA) said earlier Sunday. 

“This includes nearly 40,000 people from Al-Bab city and nearby Taduf town, as well as 26,000 people from communities to the east of Al-Bab” in northern Aleppo province, OCHA said.  

Turkey-backed rebels seized Al-Bab from the Islamic State group on February 23 after several months of fighting.  

OCHA said the 39,766 people displaced from the town fled north to areas controlled by other rebel forces, and that the “high contamination” of unexploded bombs and booby traps set by retreating jihadists was complicating efforts to return.  

And since Feb 25, OCHA said, another 26,000 people fled violence east of Al-Bab, where Syrian government forces have also been waging a fierce offensive against ISIS.

Many of those people sought refuge in areas around Manbij, a town controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.  On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group had said 30,000 people had been displaced by fighting between government forces and IS jihadists.  

An AFP correspondent in Manbij saw dozens of families speeding towards the relative safety of the town on motorcycles and in minibuses and cars.  

Since war broke out in Syria in March 2011, more than half of its population has been forced to flee their homes.  Aleppo province hosts tens of thousands of displaced Syrians, many in camps near the Turkish border.