Children given sleeping pills as civilians flee Mosul

2017-03-04 08:03
A soldier kisses a local boy after Iraqi forces entered the town of Shura, about 30km from Mosul. (Marko Drobnjakovic, AP)

A soldier kisses a local boy after Iraqi forces entered the town of Shura, about 30km from Mosul. (Marko Drobnjakovic, AP)

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Mosul - Thousands of civilians fled Mosul overnight as Iraqi forces advanced north of a sprawling military base near the city's airport on Friday.

Iraq's special forces pushed into the Wadi Hajar district in western Mosul and retook the area from the Islamic State group on Friday, according to Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesperson of the Joint Military Operations.

Special forces Brigadier General Haider al-Obeidi said clearing operations were ongoing in the area and his forces were close to linking up with the militarised federal police forces who were pushing up along the western bank of the Tigris river.

Iraqi forces, including special operations forces and federal police units, launched an attack on the western part of Mosul nearly two weeks ago to dislodge ISIS. Since the offensive began, more than 28 000 people have been displaced by the fighting, according to the United Nations.

Nahla Ahmed, 50, fled Mosul late on Thursday night, walking more than 5km from her home in the Shuhada neighborhood.

"All the families were hiding behind a wall," she said, explaining how they escaped an IS-held part of the city. "We gave the children vlium so they wouldn't cry and [the ISISighters] wouldn't catch us."

Ahmed, like most of the civilians who have escaped Mosul in the past week, fled through Mamun neighbourhood. The district is partially controlled by Iraq's special forces.

Major Saif Ali, who is stationed in Mamun, said huge crowds of civilians began pouring into the area from neighbouring districts just after midnight. Ali said civilians in western Mosul are becoming increasingly desperate as food and water supplies begin to run out.

"In total 7 000 people fled through this area last night," he said. "We were up all night trying to control the crowds."

UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Friday: "We think about 750 000 civilians are still trapped inside western Mosul, either sheltering from the fighting or waiting to flee.

"We're deeply concerned with their well-being and safety and their access to vital resources."

Read more on:    isis  |  iraq

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