UN believes up to 150,000 civilians trapped in Mosul

iraqfatherResidents who fled their homes near the Old City in western Mosul [Erik De Castro/Reuters]

17 June 2017 | Al Jazeera/Wire | Al Jazeera English

The United Nations believes up to 150,000 civilians are still trapped in harrowing conditions in Mosul’s Old City, where ISIL fighters battling advancing Iraqi forces are shooting at anyone trying to flee as part of a tactic to keep them as human shields.

The UN’s humanitarian chief Lise Grande said in an interview on Friday with The Associated Press that the global body expects the final battle for the Old City to start “within days”. She said conditions there “are desperate” and the UN expects almost all civilians to try to escape.

US-backed Iraqi forces have been battling fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) in Mosul since October. ISIL now control only a handful of neighbourhoods in and around the Old City.

Grande said there have been more than 7,000 gunshot wounds of people trying to leave districts still controlled by ISIL.

“The reason we know that they’re being shot at by snipers and not crossfire is because they’re being shot in the back,” she said.

Around 860,000 people have already fled Mosul, which was “beyond the worst case” scenario of 750,000 that the UN had planned for, said Grande.

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