Watchdog: 1.2 million Iraqis in "grave danger" amid Mosul offensive

Some 1.2 million Iraqis are in "grave danger" as the offensive launched by the Iraqi government to dislodge Islamic State militants from Mosul progresses, warned the Norwegian Refugee Council (NCR) in a statement Monday.

“NRC reiterates its appeal to the parties to the conflict to guarantee the safety of women, children and men who have lived for more than two years under brutal oppression, by establishing safe exit routes as the topmost priority,” the statement said.

"Establishing genuinely safe routes out of the city for civilians is now the top priority. We have already seen the fatal consequences of so-called safe routes back in Fallujah and we cannot expose more Iraqis to such risks again,” said Wolfgang Gressmann, NRC's Country Director in Iraq. 

Mosul, located in Nineveh province, is the largest city controlled by the Sunni extremist group. It had a population of more than 2 million before the conflict.

Islamic State overran Mosul in mid-2014 at the beginning of a lightning offensive that saw it seize swathes of Sunni Arab northern and western Iraq as Iraqi army and police units collapsed in the face of its onslaught.

The NRC emergency camps on the outskirts of Mosul can accommodate slightly more than 60,000 people at present, but as many as 200,000 may flee in the first days of the offensive, if they can make it out, the statement said.

Aid groups had earlier warned of a potential humanitarian crisis, with up to 700,000 civilians likely to flee the fighting according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Last update: Mon, 17/10/2016 - 11:54

More from World

Trump breaks with decades-old US policy in call with Taiwan president

US president-elect Donald Trump telephoned Friday with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, with whose government the...

Death toll reaches 13 in Tennessee wildfires

Thirteen people were confirmed dead and about 70 were still missing on Friday in wildfires that continue to burn in...

Russia: Syria peace talks blocked by those seeking al-Assad's ouster

Syrian peace talks are being blocked by those seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad in violation of a United...

Germany pledges additional 50 million euros in aid as Aleppo crumbles

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledged 50 million euros (53.2 million dollars) in aid to the war-...

UN expert: Torture widespread after Turkey coup, overcrowded jails

Torture and abuse were "widespread" in Turkey in the immediate aftermath of the failed coup attempt in July, a UN...