IRBIL, IRAQ —
Even as the humanitarian crisis unfolds during the fierce battle to recapture Fallujah, Iraq, another humanitarian disaster is developing in northern Iraq.
More than 14,000 Iraqis have now been forced to flee their homes following a renewed offensive by Iraqi forces against the Islamic State group southeast of Mosul, and more are leaving every day.
Mosul has been under IS control since June 2014.
According to UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, civilians living southeast of the city have been walking through minefields at night to escape the fighting as Iraqi security forces edge closer to the city.
Frederic Cussigh, head of the UNHCR’s field response unit in Irbil, said there were reports some refugees had been “trapped, severely injured or killed in minefields on their way to safety.”
Camps set up to receive them are rapidly filling up.
An eventual assault on Mosul could result in a displacement of upward of 600,000 people, the UNCHR warned.
The current offensive in Fallujah, by comparison, has displaced 43,000, and humanitarian agencies there are already warning of being overwhelmed by refugees’ needs.