World Bulletin / News Desk
The number of civilians forced to flee ISIL-held western Mosul since February -- when an army offensive began to liberate the city -- now stands at more than 526,000, an Iraqi official said Friday.
“Most of the displaced have sought refuge in government-run camps in the city’s [army-held] southern, western and eastern quarters," Jassem Mohamed al-Jaf, Iraq’s minister of displacement and migration, said in a statement.
“The number of those who have managed to return to [recently-recaptured] eastern Mosul, meanwhile, now stands at 176,000,” he added.
Ahmed al-Jarba, an MP for Iraq’s northern Nineveh province, told Anadolu Agency that the ability of displaced people to return to their homes “suggests that the security situation in eastern Mosul has improved”.
He went on to assert that the city’s eventual reconstruction would require “years of joint governmental and international efforts”.
He added: “The most pressing issue right now, however, is to ensure that those who have opted to return are being provided with basic necessities."
In March, U.K.-based charity Oxfam said that humanitarian conditions in western Mosul had deteriorated sharply since the city’s supply routes were cut last November when the Iraqi army retook the city’s eastern half.
In February, Iraqi forces -- with air cover provided by a U.S.-led coalition -- began fresh operations aimed at purging ISIL from western Mosul, the terrorist group’s last stronghold in northern Iraq.
The offensive came as part of a wider campaign launched last October to retake the entire city, which ISIL overran -- along with other parts of the country -- in mid-2014.
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The ministry's Rapid Response Division is one of two special forces units heading up the operation to recapture Mosul, which is backed by a United States-led anti-ISIL coalition.
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