Skip to main content

Mosul offensive could displace 30,000 in weeks: UN

An American soldier has been killed by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq
Iraqi soldiers guard a position on the front line against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq's Anbar province (AFP)

The UN’s refugee agency on Tuesday warned that the ongoing joint Iraqi operation against the Islamic State (IS) group south of the northern city of Mosul could displace 30,000 civilians in the coming weeks.

Iraq has seen a flare up in fighting on several fronts in recent days as the battle to root out IS has gained ground in the north and south-west of the country.

These forces are still at least 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of Iraq's second city but the fighting there has been forcing thousands of civilians from their homes.

An existing camp in Debaga, which lies east of Makhmur - the main staging ground for that operation - already hosts around 8,000 people, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

"As many as 30,000 newly displaced individuals may arrive in Makhmur over the coming weeks as the military offensive continues," the UNHCR said in a statement while adding that it was opening up additional facilities to try and deal with the expected surge in demand.

American killed

On Tuesday, IS broke through Kurdish defences in northern Iraq, just north of Mosul, killing a US service member deployed as part of the US-led coalition against the militants. A coalition military official told AFP on the condition of anonymity that the service member was killed at 9:30 am (0630 GMT) by "direct fire" after "enemy forces penetrated" the Kurdish Peshmerga line.

The service member, whom the Pentagon confirmed was American, was at least the third killed by enemy fire in Iraq since IS overran swathes of the country in 2014.

President Barack Obama hailed the 2011 withdrawal of American troops from Iraq as a major accomplishment of his presidency, but US forces have been drawn back into combat in the country against IS. The United States announced last month that it was deploying additional forces to Iraq, bringing the official total to more than 4,000.

His death came as a sea of Shia pilgrims braved the threat of bombings by IS, which have killed dozens in recent days, to take part in a major annual religious commemoration in Baghdad.

Anti-IS forces also pushed ahead in the southwestern Anbar province, where pro-government troops backed by American and Australian special forces and US airstrikes, were able to end an 18-month Islamic State siege of the beleaguered town of Hadith.

The road into the town, under IS control since late 2014, has been opened by the drive, Iraqi security sources told media.

Local sources in Hadith told the Telegraph by phone on Tuesday that much work remained to be done and that the militants had littered the ground with mines and IDPs, repeating a tactic seen elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.