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Thousands of Mosul residents flee ongoing battle

Intense fighting has forced out thousands of Mosul residents [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 March, 2016

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The battles between Iraqi forces and IS militants has forced thousands of Mosul residents to flee the city.

Thousands of residents were forced to flee fighting between Islamic State militants and Iraqi forces as the battle to recapture Mosul continued on Sunday.

Families from Iraq's northern city crammed in the back of pickup trucks as they fled the frontlines and headed towards Kurdish forces.

Smain Nuweis fled the village of Kharbardan with his family of seven squeezed into the back of his Opel.

"We have seen a lot of suffering," the 28-year-old said. "And it got worse now with the shelling."

"Daesh will not allow the people to flee, they want them to stay," said Nuweis, using an Arabic name for IS.

The forces have been advancing from their base in Makhmur towards the town of Qayyarah, about 60 kilometres south of Mosul.

Growing numbers of civilians have been fleeing the advance to Makhmur where they are being assisted by Kurdish peshmerga forces.

"So far we have received around 3,000 people and the numbers are growing every day," Ali Khodeir Ahmed, a member of Nineveh's provincial council, told AFP in Makhmur.

"But there are no services offered to them by the Iraqi government, we have to put them up in a stadium in Makhmur," he said.

More than 3.3 million people have been displaced by conflict in Iraq since the start of 2014, according to figures from the United Nations.

A major offensive to retake the captured city was launched on Thursday when Iraqi troops and allied paramilitary fighters advanced in the first phase of what is expected to be a long and difficult operation to retake Mosul, the country's second city and the largest urban centre in IS's cross-border "caliphate".

The provincial council official urged the government to do more for the flow of displaced people, who were given little more than water upon reaching the peshmerga.

"We need to open camps and provide urgent assistance. These people's situation is very bad, they were barely able to take any belongings with them," said Ali Khodeir Ahmed.

More than 3.3 million people have been displaced by conflict in Iraq since the start of 2014, according to figures from the United Nations.

IS seized control of large parts of Iraq in 2014, with Iraqi forces collapsing in the face of a lightning advance. Backed by a US-led coalition, Iraq has been clawing back territory from the militants in recent months.

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