More than 45,000 flee western Mosul

Sahar Othman and Nehal El-Sherif
Iraqi forces are fighting their way toward the old centre of Mosul.

Iraqi forces are edging closer to the central parts of western Mosul, while at least 45,000 people have been displaced from the area since an offensive to dislodge Islamic State militants began last month.

Since February 25, 45,714 individuals have been displaced from western Mosul, or around 7619 families, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Sunday.

On February 19, US-backed Iraqi forces started a major offensive to drive Islamic State out of the western section of Mosul, almost a month after they forced the hardliners out of the eastern side of the city.

Almost a week after the offensive began, troops began storming densely populated residential areas.

The total number of Iraqis displaced from eastern and western Mosul since October reached 206,520 individuals, the IOM said.

In February, the United Nations warned that the humanitarian situation is desperate for an estimated 750,000 civilians in western Mosul.

On Sunday, Iraqi forces took over several government buildings in Dawasah district as they edged closer to the central parts of western Mosul, a police official said.

Colonel Emad al-Bayati says the US-backed forces now control police stations and military sites.

US-backed forces stormed Dawasah earlier on Sunday.

They are currently advancing towards the Nineveh Police Directorate, in central Mosul, to retake control of it, al-Bayati said.

Islamic State seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, in mid-2014.

In recent months, the al-Qaeda splinter group has suffered military setbacks and lost territory in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.