Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, has announced the start of an operation to uproot ISIL militants from western Mosul.
With backing from the US, Iraqi Army planes are said to have dropped millions of leaflets into the jihadists’ stronghold, to warn local residents of an imminent assault.
Joel Millman, a spokesperson for the UN’s International Organization for Migration expressed fears for the estimated 650,000 civilians said to be holed up alongside ISIL militants in western Mosul.
“There is concern that the hardest fighting is about to begin. We know that it has been difficult for people to leave Mosul. Sometimes it is just too much shooting, there is a problem with bridges to get out of the city. There were five bridges originally, now I believe there are non in operation. So you have a lot of different problems, that leave desperate people, vulnerable people, in a position that they really do need assistance but they can’t get out,” Millman said.
Iraqi soldiers and their allies surrounding Mosul forced the group from the east in an operation that was completed in January, 2017.
A successful attempt to dislodge the hardline Sunnis from the west of the city would effectively put an end to the Iraqi half of the group’s self-declared caliphate.