(AhlulBayt News Agency) - Iraq says more than 150,000 people have fled fighting in and around the western side of Mosul since security forces launched an operation to retake the area from ISIS terrorists.
According to Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displaced, civilians continue to leave Mosul’s western side as armed forces are struggling to dislodge ISIS terrorists from their last urban stronghold in the country.
The ministry said Thursday that 152,857 people have so far fled the operation zone since February 19, when the battle began.
In the figures released on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration had put the number of those who have escaped at nearly 100,000.
Iraqi forces and allied fighters had gained control of the eastern side of Mosul in January, after 100 days of fighting.
They have managed to liberate several areas of western Mosul, a city divided into two halves by Tigris River.
On Thursday morning, Iraqi soldiers were trying to encircle Mosul’s Old City to bottle up ISIS elements, but military officials say the operations have been slowed due to bad weather as well as the bombs and booby traps planted across the combat area.
“Operations in the Mosul west Old City have been halted on Thursday due to bad, rainy weather. We can’t advance without airstrikes cover due to the fog,” Reuters quoted an Iraqi Rapid Response unit as saying.
A federal police officer confirmed the halt and said commanders were meeting to adjust their plans.
“The new offensive plans should adapt with the difficult terrain of the complicated, narrow alleys,” he said.
Federal Police Major General Haidar Dhirgham also said the complete liberation of Mosul to take at least a month.
“I will not tell you one or two weeks, because that’s not true, but within one or two months it will be completely liberated,” he said.