In camps and ruins, Mosul civilians' ordeal is far from over
The battle for Mosul is all but over after nine months of devastating urban warfare between government forces and Islamic State militants, but Iraqi civilians are suffering in a humanitarian crisis of monumental scale.
More than 40,000 civilians were killed in the devastating battle to retake Mosul from Isis, according to intelligence reports revealed exclusively to The Independent - a death toll far higher than previous estimates. Residents of the besieged city were killed by Iraqi ground forces attempting to force out militants, as well as by air strikes and Isis fighters, according to Kurdish intelligence services. Hoshyar Zebari, until recently a senior minister in Baghdad, told The Independent that many bodies "are still buried under the rubble". "The level of human suffering is immense," he said.
More than one million people fled their homes in Mosul and nearby villages since the fighting started. Most of them are packed into camps in the countryside or have found shelter elsewhere.
Those who ventured back to Mosul found wrecked houses, destroyed schools and hospitals, and water and power shortages, alongside the threat of gunfire and booby-traps. Whole neighbourhoods of Iraq's second city are reduced to the crumpled ruins of what were once homes and businesses — much of the destruction due to air strikes and artillery by the US-led coalition.
Charred wrecks of cars litter the streets. "The end of the battle for Mosul isn't the end of the ordeal for civilians. The humanitarian situation not only remains grave, but could worsen," the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of many international organisations and governments helping the relief and rehabilitation effort, said in a statement.
Civilians in Mosul say they do not fault the behaviour towards them of combat units that have borne the brunt of the fighting, such as the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), but they are concerned about what to expect from less
well-disciplined troops. AGENCIES