Nearly 42,000 people have fled from their homes since last month’s start of the operation to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State group, the International Organization for Migration said on Wednesday. Aid organisations have warned that more than a million people could be displaced in the battle for Mosul, and while it has not yet reached that scale, the numbers are growing. The IOM said on its displacement tracking web page that 41,988 people have been “displaced as a result of the ongoing Mosul operations which began on 17 October 2016.” That was an increase of more than 7,000 from the figure the IOM gave the previous day, but it was unclear when the spike in displacement occurred.
The vast majority of those displaced are from Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, but the IOM has also included people from several other provinces in the Mosul operation figures. While the worst-case scenario has not materialised so far, Iraqi forces have yet to push deep into the city, and the number of people fleeing the area could increase dramatically when that occurs. Both Mosul residents and the United Nations have reported that IS has forcibly gathered civilians for possible use as human shields.
IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained significant ground from the jihadists, and Mosul is now the last IS-held city in the country.