‘Worst is yet to come’ in Mosul, warns UN
Many fear fleeing because of Daesh snipers and land mines. But 157,000 have reached a reception and transit center outside Mosul since the government offensive on the city’s west side began a month ago, said Bruno Geddo, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq.
“The worst is yet to come. Because 400,000 people trapped in the Old City in that situation of panic and penury may inevitably lead to the cork-popping somewhere, sometime, presenting us with a fresh outflow of large-scale proportions,” he said.
The government halted offensive operations on Thursday morning due to cloudy weather, which makes it difficult to bring in air support. “Dozens of Daesh snipers are still positioned on rooftops of the Old City high buildings, posing a threat to our soldiers,” he said.
Terrified Iraqi families fleeing fierce fighting are drugging their children with sedatives or taping their mouths shut to prevent their cries alerting Daesh militants as they try to escape, aid workers said.
Hala Jaber of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said men caught trying to leave would be shot while women were sometimes tied up and left outside in the cold as a warning. Militants are also using civilians as human shields.
“Families often leave at night and in the early hours of the morning and have to walk with their children. The kids get tired and if they cry it’s very difficult,” Jaber told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Irbil, east of Mosul.