Mo­sul edges to­wards full siege, fam­i­lies strug­gle to find food

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A full siege is de­vel­op­ing in Mo­sul as poor fam­i­lies strug­gle to feed them­selves af­ter prices rose sharply fol­low­ing the US-backed of­fen­sive on the Is­lamic State-held city in north­ern Iraq, hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers said yes­ter­day.

Some of the poor­est fam­i­lies are find­ing it hard to feed them­selves while oth­ers are hoard­ing and hid­ing food as they ex­pect prices to rise fur­ther as the bat­tle that started six weeks ago takes hold of the city. “Key in­for­mants are telling us that poor fam­i­lies are strug­gling to put suf­fi­cient food on their ta­bles,” UN Hu­man­i­tar­ian Co­or­di­na­tor in Iraq, Lise Grande, told Reuters. “This is very wor­ry­ing.”

Iraqi gov­ern­ment and Kur­dish forces sur­round the city from the north, east and south, while Pop­u­lar Mobilization forces - a coali­tion of Ira­ni­an­backed Shi’ite groups - are try­ing to close in from the west. Re­tail prices rose sharply last week, af­ter Pop­u­lar Mobilization fighters cut the sup­ply route to Mo­sul from the Syr­ian half of the self-styled caliphate, de­clared by Is­lamic State two years ago over Sunni-pop­u­lated parts of Iraq and Syria.

More than a mil­lion peo­ple are still be­lieved to live in parts of Mo­sul un­der the con­trol of the Is­lamic State fighters, who seized the largest city in north­ern Iraq as part of a light­ning ad­vance across a third of the coun­try in 2014.

With the last sup­ply route cut off, ba­sic com­mod­ity prices in Mo­sul could dou­ble “in the short term”, said a hu­man­i­tar­ian worker, who de­clined to be iden­ti­fied. Some 100,000 Iraqi gov­ern­ment troops, Kur­dish se­cu­rity forces and mainly Shi’ite mili­ti­a­men are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the as­sault on Mo­sul that be­gan on Oct 17, with air and ground sup­port from a US-led in­ter­na­tional mil­i­tary coali­tion. The cap­ture of Mo­sul, Is­lamic State’s last ma­jor ur­ban strong­hold in Iraq, is seen as cru­cial to­wards dis­man­tling the caliphate.

Iraqi forces mov­ing from the east have cap­tured about a quar­ter of Mo­sul, try­ing to ad­vance to the Ti­gris river that runs through its cen­tre, in the big­gest bat­tle in Iraq since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion that top­pled Sad­dam Hus­sein. “In a worst case, we en­vi­sion that fam­i­lies who are al­ready in trou­ble in Mo­sul will find them­selves in even more acute need.” Grande said. “The longer it takes to lib­er­ate Mo­sul, the harder con­di­tions be­come for fam­i­lies.” Is­lamic State ar­rested on Sun­day about 30 shop own­ers ac­cused of rais­ing food prices in the city, to try to sup­press dis­con­tent, wit­nesses said on Mon­day. The group is re­lent­lessly crack­ing down on peo­ple who could help the of­fen­sive in Iraq. Most of the peo­ple ex­e­cuted pre­vi­ously in Mo­sul were for­mer po­lice and army of­fi­cers, sus­pected of dis­loy­alty or plot­ting re­bel­lions against the mil­i­tants’ harsh rule. The Iraqi mil­i­tary es­ti­mates there are 5,000-6,000 in­sur­gents in Mo­sul, dug in amid civil­ians to ham­per air strikes, re­sist­ing the ad­vanc­ing troops with sui­cide car bombs and sniper and mor­tar fire that also kill civil­ians.

An air strike tar­get­ing Is­lamic State fighters hit a clinic south of Mo­sul on Oc­to­ber 18, killing at least eight civil­ians, Hu­man Rights Watch said yes­ter­day.

Iraqi and coali­tion forces did not con­firm the re­port, which said two mil­i­tants and the Sunni hard­line group’s trans­port min­is­ter were also killed in the strike. Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr alBagh­dadi, be­lieved to be some­where near the Syr­ian bor­der, has told his fighters there can be no re­treat from the city.

Some 74,000 civil­ians have fled Mo­sul so far, and the United Na­tions is pre­par­ing for a worstcase sce­nario which fore­sees more than a mil­lion peo­ple made home­less as win­ter de­scends and food short­ages set in.

A Reuters cor­re­spon­dent in east­ern Mo­sul saw civil­ians flee­ing the fight­ing in Aden, a district sup­posed to be un­der Iraqi gov­ern­ment con­trol, in an in­di­ca­tion of the dif­fi­culty the troops are en­coun­ter­ing in hold­ing ter­rain. “Daesh is still there,” said Ehab, a high school stu­dent, re­fer­ring to Is­lamic State by one of its Arab acronyms. “They drive around in cars; the sit­u­a­tion is very, very dif­fi­cult there. I am glad I made it out alive.”— Reuters

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