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1.2 Million Iraqis Could Be Uprooted in Mosul Battle, U.N. Says
The United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday that it was bracing to accommodate as many as 1.2 million displaced Iraqis when the battle begins to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants, who overran the northern city more than two years ago.
A spokesman for the agency, Adrian Edwards, said it was scrambling to build encampments in six locations in northern Iraq to handle such an influx, which could inflate the country's displaced-person population by more than a third. Mr. Edwards also said that "other shelter options are being prepared."
His announcement, at a regular news briefing in Geneva, the refugee agency's headquarters, did not necessarily signify an imminent military operation to seize Mosul, about 250 miles north of Baghdad.
But the announcement provided detail on the efforts to prepare for enormous new pressure on the Iraqi government to house and feed hundreds of thousands of Mosul residents when the fighting starts.
"The humanitarian impact of a military offensive there is expected to be enormous," Mr. Edwards said in remarks posted on the refugee agency's website.
The Iraqi government has been warning for months that the battle to retake Mosul is coming. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq said at a news conference in Baghdad that "Mosul will be liberated in 2016."
Iraq already faces one of the biggest internal displacement crises in the Middle East. Nearly 3.4 million people have fled their homes since January 2014, including families who have been uprooted multiple times.
A battle for Mosul could increase that number by up to 1.2 million people, Mr. Edwards said. He coupled the warning with a plea for donations, saying the refugee agency's Iraq budget of $584 million was only 38 percent funded as of Aug. 2.
The United Nations "is doing what it can amid enormous challenges to build more camps to accommodate people and mitigate suffering, but additional land for camps and funding is still needed," he said.
Mosul, once Iraq's second-largest city with a population that reached about 2.5 million, was seized in June 2014 by Islamic State militants who routed government troops, many of whom fled in panic.
The Mosul takeover was a humiliation for the Iraqi government and a warning for the United States and other Western powers about the potency of the Islamic State, which went on to capture more territory in Iraq. President Obama, who had withdrawn United States troops from Iraq in 2011, redeployed a limited number and authorized American airstrikes against Islamic State targets.
With the help of American airstrikes and assistance from other powers, including Iran, a conglomeration of Iraqi government forces and militias have since reclaimed the cities of Ramadi and Falluja from the Islamic State, leaving Mosul as the militant group's last major redoubt in the country.
Nonetheless, United States military officials have warned of what they describe as a grinding insurgency in the coming months to oust the Islamic State from Mosul and destroy the group's ability to carry out suicide bombings and other deadly attacks.
[Source: By Rick Gladstone, International New York Times, 23Aug16]
War in Afghanistan & Iraq
|This document has been published on 31Aug16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.|