Civilian toll rises as US-led forces tighten grip on Mosul

Indo Asian News Service

Mosul (Iraq), March 2 (IANS) Among Iraq's provinces, the Mosul region has suffered the highest number of civilian casualties in February, as the US-backed coalition tightens its grip on densely populated western neighbourhoods of the Islamic State-held city, according to new UN estimates.

A total of 329 civilians were killed and 613 injured across Iraq in February, in "acts of terrorism, violence, and armed conflict", according to the new figures by the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

The Iraqi military operation to retake Mosul city from the IS and its attempts to hold ground apparently caused a serious surge in civilian casualties.

Ninewa governorate has suffered the most with 201 civilians killed and 250 others injured. UNAMI, however, said it has been "hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas", thus the conflict's civilian toll might be even higher.

Iraqi civilians suffer both from the US-led coalition airstrikes and the IS, who deliberately target fleeing civilians to prevent them from escaping.

"We have suffered from many shellings, so many shellings. The shellings were on from the morning till the evening, deadly shellings. We were not able to leave our houses because of them," a recently displaced Iraqi woman, Sakna Younis, told the RT online.

As of February 28, some 16,500 people have been displaced, and only 8,800 of them have so far been distributed among camps and emergency sites, according to OCHA.

A further 85,000 people can be housed within prepared emergency camps and shelters, while some 400,000 civilians can flee the battle zone as the offensive continues, according to UN estimates, while roughly 750,000 people remain trapped in war-torn western Mosul.