epaselect IRAQ MOSUL DISPLACED MOSUL IS.jpg
Iraqi displaced people who fled from areas near Mosul arrive at Dibaga camp, ouskirts of Mosul, southwest of Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region, north of Iraq, 23 July 2016.
Photograph: EPA/AHMED JALIL

The planned offensive on the Islamic militia stronghold Mosul in northern Iraq could create one million refugees if poorly executed, Turkey's Defence Minister Fikri Isik warned on Tuesday.

Turkey has increasingly warned about potential demographic upheavals and sectarian strife in Iraq if a poorly planned operation takes place in Mosul, a city that has been under the control of the extremist group since 2014.

The Iraq army and the US have said they intend to move on the city soon, though there is as yet no exact time frame. The Iraqi army is using Shiite militias in its efforts to retake territory lost to Islamic State terrorist militia.

The state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Isik as saying refugees fleeing Mosul and its environs could head for the Turkish border and even cross into the country.

"This will create a burden that is very very difficult for Turkey to handle and would overflow to Europe, if Turkey cannot handle it," he said.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees, many from Syria, left Turkey last year for Europe, creating tensions within the European Union and between Ankara and Brussels.

Turkey, a NATO member, hosts well over 2 million refugees from Syria and hundreds of thousands more from Iraq.

Turkey is also at odds with the US in northern Syria. The US has allied with Kurdish fighters on the ground to push back Islamic State but Turkey is demanding that they retreat to the east of the Euphrates River. The militia has links to insurgents in Turkey.

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