Mosul governor warns retaking the city from Daesh could prompt mass exodus
Iraqi families receive water at a camp for internally displaced people after fleeing Fallujah during the military operation to retake the city from Daesh. (AFP/File)
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A planned army operation to retake Iraq’s northern city of Mosul from the Daesh terrorist group could lead to the displacement of "hundreds of thousands" of the city’s residents, Mosul Governor Nawfal Hamadi warned Tuesday.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Hamadi said the planned campaign was likely to prompt a mass exodus of Mosul’s civilian residents to northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.
He went on to warn that as many as one million people -- roughly half of the city’s inhabitants -- could be forced to flee amid a major army advance on Mosul.
"Some measures have been taken to contain the situation," Hamadi said, noting that the government had built five camps near the city to accommodate the expected outpouring of refugees.
According to Atheel al-Nujaifi, a former Mosul governor and current commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Watani forces (which will take part in the upcoming campaign), some 4,000 troops have been deployed in the town of Bashiqa northwest of Mosul while some military forces had already been sent -- covertly -- into Mosul itself.
"We [the Hashd al-Watani] already have forces inside Mosul," he asserted. "At least a thousand troops are currently inside the city waiting our command."
"We have retaken 30 percent of Nineveh province so far," he said, referring to the province of which Mosul serves as regional capital. "The rest is still held by Daesh."
On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said Washington planned to send an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help the Iraqi army retake Mosul.
Iraq has suffered a devastating security vacuum since mid-2014, when Daesh captured Mosul and overran large swathes of territory in the northern and western parts of the country.
According to the UN, more than 3.4 million people are now internally displaced in Iraq -- more than half of them children -- while more than 10 million are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.
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