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More civilians flee Mosul as Red Cross condemns 'chemical attack'

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By Alasdair Sandford
More civilians flee Mosul as Red Cross condemns 'chemical attack'

Increasing numbers of civilians are said to be escaping the fighting in Mosul as Iraqi forces try to oust ISIL militants.

Meanwhile the US-backed forces say they’ve captured another district in their push towards the city centre.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has reported an apparent chemical attack, injuring several people.

As many as 12 people are said to have been injured. According to a Red Cross doctor, some displayed symptoms suggesting a chemical agent.

It reportedly followed a mortar attack fired from west Mosul which is still held by the so-called Islamic State.

The UN’s refugee agency says rising numbers of people are fleeing Mosul.

“We have noted a significant increase in displacement in the last week, 30,000 in west Mosul, 4,000 a day or so,” said UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh in Geneva.

An idea of how bad things have been comes from Khatla Ali Abdallah, one of those to leave with her family for a camp outside the city.

“Throughout my whole life I never lived through a war like this one even during wars under Saddam Hussein, we did not feel afraid the way we feel now. It is true that there were wars and many of our sons were killed, but they were different from this war,” the 90-year-old said.

Several thousand ISIL militants and several hundred thousand civilians are thought to be still inside Mosul.

A 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iranian-trained Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary groups are engaged in an offensive to remove ISIL from the city, the militants’ last major stronghold in Iraq.