Danger For Iraqis Fleeing Fighting In Mosul As Casualties Mount
Thousands of Iraqis are fleeing their homes on Sunday (February 26) as government troops backed by U.S.-led air strikes pushed deeper into western Mosul, advancing in several populated southern districts.
The mass population displacement follows the military offensive to retake the western side of Mosul from Islamic State (ISIS) control which began a week ago.
Displaced families said that many had been killed while escaping.
A displaced woman, Najiha Mohammed Abed, said she and her family raised a white banner and fled but her son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were hit when something went off.
"My daughter-in-law was blown away and I did not find her body. I searched for my son among the dead, there were almost 100 [bodies] and I found him wounded," she said, adding that she didn't know her son's whereabouts.
"I carried him on my shoulder, telling him to hold on. I do not know his whereabouts now. They took him to the hospital now and I do not know whether he is still alive or he died. Oh, God, I lost my house, my son, my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter," she said, weeping.
"We have been dying slowly for too long. I will never go back to Mosul."
As a security measure, men are separated from women and children and undergo security checks before being moved to displacement camps.
A Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) officer said that he had received 50 to 60 people wounded by ISIS bombing and referred them to the clinic.
"The road is full of bombs, and according to eyewitnesses Daesh [ISIS] are placing bombs underneath vehicles and blowing them up," said Brigadier General Salman Hashim Hussein.
"Until now we have evacuated 1,100 displaced persons and the number is rising. Trucks are transporting people from inside [Mosul] to this place where we separate men from women and identify suspects after checking their names on the computer," he added.
The new push in Mosul comes after government forces finished clearing ISIS from the east of the city last month, confining the insurgents to the western sector across the Tigris river.
The government is encouraging civilians to stay in their homes wherever possible.
However the United Nations expects up to 400,000 people may have to leave their homes during the new offensive amid food and fuel shortages in western Mosul.