WORLD

One Million Innocent People Are At 'Extreme Risk' Of Being Caught In The Mosul Firefight

It's a slow-moving humanitarian disaster with a dire human cost.

21/11/2016 2:45 PM AEDT | Updated 21/11/2016 4:53 PM AEDT
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A member of the Iraqi Federal Police fires his weapon at an Islamic State (IS) group target on the front line near the village of Tall Adh-Dhahab, some 10 kilometres (6 miles) south of Mosul, on November 18, during a massive operation to oust IS jihadists from the country's second city. / AFP / Ahmad MOUSA (Photo credit should read AHMAD MOUSA/AFP/Getty Images)

The battle for Mosul rages on as Iraqi soldiers continue their push into the ISIS held city, amid warnings of a "worst case scenario" putting a million residents at risk.

For the past month a coalition of Iraqi military forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have fought an intense battle to retake Iraq's second largest city, almost two years after it was lost to the terrorist group.

In the middle of the battle are 1.5 million civilians, up to a million of whom are under extreme risk of harm amidst the fighting, aid groups say.

"In a worst case scenario, as many as one million people could be at extreme risk from cross-fire, snipers, contamination with improvised explosive devices, forced expulsions and could be used as human shields," the groups, which include the International Office of Migration and The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

AFP/Getty Images
A member of the Hashd Al Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Units), gives directions to members of his unit after they came under fire by an Islamic State (IS) snipper at Tal Afar airport -- which commands the city's western approach -- on November 20, 2016.

Khalid Al Mousily / Reuters
Members of the Shi'ite Badr Organisation fighters take cover behind a berm during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, on November 20, 2016

The statement was issued to mark a month since the battle began.

"Civilian casualties, and the lack of capacity to treat these, are deeply worrying," the statement said.

Almost 59,000 people have been displaced, about 26,000 of them children, the agencies said, and more than 40,000 displaced people have found shelter in formal camps managed by the Iraqi Government, the United Nations and national and international NGOs.

There are an estimated 54,000 Iraqi military 40,000 Peshmerga fighters involved in the battle, against an estimated 5,000 ISIS fighters.

Getty Images
Internally relocated people -- who fled their homes due to the clashes --wait to be placed to refugee camps at Omerkapci village of Bashiqa town on November 20.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Mosul residents wait in a queue to receive food supplies, at the city's al-Samah neighbourhood on Nov. 20, 2016

Human Rights Watch has reported militia groups detained and beat at least 22 men from two villages near Mosul and recruited at least 10 children in a camp for displaced people as fighters against ISIS.

Major-General Sami al-Aridi told The Associated Press his special forces were searching homes in areas retaken from ISIS, looking for fighters and vehicles rigged with explosives, mortar and sniper fire.

"The biggest hindrance to us is the civilians, whose presence is slowing us down," Maj. Gen. al-Aridi said.

"We are soldiers who are not trained to carry out humanitarian tasks."

Khalid Al Mousily / Reuters
A member of the Shi'ite Badr Organisation fighter inspects a tunnel used by Islamic State militants during a battle with Islamic State at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq, on November 20
Khalid Al Mousily / Reuters
Members of the Shi'ite Badr Organisation fighters inspect a tunnel used by Islamic State militants during a battle with Islamic State at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq, on November 20

Another Iraqi army commander told the U.S. News Agency four civilians were killed and another four wounded when a suicide car bomb exploded before it could reach troops it was targeting on Saturday.

ISIS captured Mosul following a frantic campaign in 2014 that saw the terror group make massive gains in Iraq.

Last week it emerged ISIS summarily killed 21 civilians in Mosul it accused of collaborating with U.S.-backed security forces.

There have also been reports ISIS is using toys as booby traps, as well as hidden improvised explosiove devices in retaken areas.

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