Iraqi and Kurdish authorities set up refugee camp for thousands as they prepare for influx after Mosul re-takeover
Published 19/10/2016 | 11:20
Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are setting up a refugee camp with some 5,000 tents east of Mosul as they prepare for an influx of people fleeing a massive offensive to retake the Islamic State-held city.
Project manager Prezzo Mikael said the camp is nearly complete, with running water, electricity and food.
The massive operation launched on Monday is expected to take weeks or months.
Mosul, which fell to IS in 2014, is still home to more than a million people.
The camp is prepared to receive 5,000 families.
Iraqi authorities have called on people to remain in their homes but are also preparing humanitarian corridors for them to escape the fighting.
Meanwhile, Islamic State militants have deployed suicide car bombs and fired mortar rounds to slow down the advance of Iraqi troops outside a key town near the militant-held city of Mosul.
An officer with the Iraqi army's 9th Division said his troops are around one kilometre (half a mile) away from Hamdaniyah, a historically Christian town also known as Bakhdida.
He said IS has sent 12 car bombs since Tuesday, all of which were blown up before reaching their targets.
He said troops suffered a small number of casualties from the mortar rounds.
Iraq launched a massive operation on Monday to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city.
The operation is the largest launched by the Iraqi army since the 2003 US-led invasion.
Some 25,000 troops, including Sunni tribal fighters, Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga and state-sanctioned Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Units are approaching the city from different directions.
The participation of the Shiite militias in the operation to retake the mainly Sunni Mosul has raised concerns that the campaign could inflame sectarian tensions.
Rights groups have accused the Shiite militias of abuses in past campaigns against IS-held areas.
In a bid to alleviate those concerns, Shiite militia leaders announced that they will only focus on capturing the mostly Shiite town of Tal Afar to the west of Mosul, and not enter the city itself.
"The only troops who will enter Mosul are the army and police, not the Popular Mobilisation Units or the peshmerga," said Hadi al-Amiri, the leader of the Badr Brigade, one of the largest Shiite militias.
"This has been agreed upon," he said at a press conference in the Shiite holy city of Najaf.
Amnesty International said in a report released on Tuesday that Iraqi government and paramilitary forces detained, tortured or killed hundreds of Sunni Arab civilians fleeing IS-held areas during the operation to retake the Sunni city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, earlier this year.
The Iraqi government has denied any systematic violations by security forces or the militias, and says individuals have been held accountable for occasional abuses.