Civilians flee west Mosul as Iraqi forces
Sniper fire serious risk for escapees
MOSUL - At least 26,000 people have fled
in the 10 days since Iraqi forces launched a
push to retake west Mosul, where jihadists
put up "fierce" resistance on Wednesday.
West Mosul is the Islamic State group's last
urban bastion in Iraq, and its recapture
would mark the effective end of the
cross-border "caliphate" its leader Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi announced from a mosque in the
city more than two years ago.
Iraqi forces have yet to advance deep into
western areas, but the fighting combined
with privation and harsh IS rule has already
pushed a growing number of civilians to
Field teams received "26,000 displaced
people from (west) Mosul during the past 10
days," Jassem Mohammed al-Jaff, the minister
of displacement and migration, said in a
The number who have fled is only a fraction
of the 750,000 people who are believed to
have stayed on in west Mosul under IS rule
but it is expected to rise sharply in the
coming days and weeks.
A commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism
Service said on Wednesday that IS put up
tough resistance in the Maamun Flats area of
southwest Mosul, which he said is considered
"important for the control of the
"The resistance is violent and fierce
because they're defending this line and this
line, in our opinion, is the main line for
them," Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani
Iraq's Joint Operations Command announced
later in the day that CTS had recaptured
The damage in the Maamun area is heavy, with
homes destroyed, roads cratered and rows of
crumpled cars, some of them piled one on top
Fleeing residents spoke of dire conditions
inside the city.
"We're so hungry, we haven't eaten almost
anything in four days," said Widaa, a
20-year-old who fled Maamun.
"There was firing all around our house, it
was being destroyed bit by bit," she said.
The drive to retake the west of Mosul -- the
smaller but more densely populated side of a
city split by the Tigris River -- began on
February 19, after Iraqi troops retook its
east side the previous month.
- Civilians targeted by snipers -
Sniper fire is a significant danger in
Maamun, said Kathy Bequary, the executive
director of NYC Medics, a group providing
emergency care from a mobile clinic.
"We're seeing a lot of serious gunshot
wounds from snipers," Bequary said.
"Most of our patients are combatants, but
civilians are affected too. Two days ago, we
treated a family -- a mother, father, son
and daughter -- who were trying to escape
Mosul and were targeted by snipers," she
"The five-year-old daughter was shot in the
pelvis, a through and through wound. The
girl was very, very critical."
IS overran large areas north and west of
Baghdad in 2014, announcing a "caliphate"
incorporating swathes of Iraq and Syria.
While security forces initially performed
dismally, they have since retaken most of
the territory they lost, with backing from
US-led air strikes and other support.
IS has also lost significant ground in
Syria, and while it still holds the city of
Raqa in that country and some territory in
western Iraq in addition to in Mosul, the
jihadists' "state" is crumbling.
The operation to retake Mosul was launched
on October 17, involving an array of
sometimes rival security forces and
But the brunt of the fighting has fallen to
the CTS and the interior ministry's elite
Rapid Response Division.