Wednesday, 29 March 2017 11:04

286,000 People Displaced as Families Continue to Lose Loved Ones Due to Mosul Operations

Iraq, 28 March 2017 - Since 25 February, when people from West Mosul first began to flee, the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) has tracked a total of 27,634 families (165,744 individuals) in their location of displacement.

The largest group of these displaced people – 28,770 individuals – is sheltering in the Qayyara airstrip, constructed by IOM in cooperation with Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration (MoMD). The emergency site, the largest constructed for the Mosul crisis, is now home to 8,792 families in total (48,959 individuals), an increase of over 28,000 since the West Mosul operations started on 19 February.

Construction work continues at IOM’s second camp in Haj Ali with a capacity for 7,500 plots for families (45,000 individuals). Currently, 4,356 plots (19,880 individuals) are in use mostly by internally displaced persons (IDPs) from West Mosul.

More than 286,020 individuals have been currently displaced by Mosul operations, which began on 17 October 2016; this current displacement figure increased by 122,000 in the past month. Cumulatively, more than 350,000 individuals have been displaced by Mosul operations; however, as of 23 March, more than 76,000 have returned.

Thousands of displaced people are losing their lives while fleeing the fighting in Mosul. This is Sara Alaa’s story:

Bent over, sobbing quietly as he muttered incomprehensible words, Abdullah gripped the empty-looking body bag as if his life depended on it.

At first glance, the cadaver pouch that lay on a stretcher looked empty; large parts of it appeared hollow until Abdullah unzipped it.

Inside the adult body bag, lay five-year-old Sara Alaa.


The little girl looked like she was asleep. Her eyes half closed, her mouth slightly opened as if she was still breathing and her pretty face unscathed. Her black hair tied back from her face, she was dressed in a sweatshirt with little coloured flowers and the word “Love” printed on it.

Her grandfather, Abdullah, had rushed her to IOM’s field hospital in Hammam al-Alil after ISIL shot her while the family was trying to escape Mosul’s al-Jadeeda neighbourhood in the early hours of last Thursday morning (23 March). Abdullah, his wife and seven other family members, including two blind women and Sara’s relatives, were trying to flee when an ISIL sniper began shooting to stop them leaving.

“We froze in our tracks out of fear. The two blind women fell to the ground. Relatives started to drag them back to the safety of a nearby building,” said Abdullah’s nephew, Salah, who had accompanied Abdullah to the field hospital.

Another ISIL sniper appeared at the top of the street where they were hiding, spraying the area with machine gunfire to prevent families from running.

Abdullah instinctively grabbed a terrified Sara and held her in his arms.

“I took her into my arms embracing her body to protect it from the shooting,” he sobbed.

But the sniper was too quick. Two bullets were fired, one entering Sara’s tiny body from the back and exiting from her chest leaving a big hole near the heart. Another bullet hit Abdullah in the abdomen.

In the panic that ensued, Abdullah and his nephew, together with Sara, were put in a car and driven to the IOM and Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRCS) hospital in Hammam al-Alil.

“When Sara arrived at the field hospital, she was already dead,” explained the surgeon on call that morning.

By late morning, Sara’s mother was en route to the hospital, unaware that her youngest child had been killed.

“I couldn’t tell her mother on the phone,” Abdullah said as he sobbed inconsolably. “She is in a taxi on her way here and does not know that her daughter is dead,” he said, burying his face in the body bag as he wept.

“We should have been celebrating the liberation of our neighbourhood having survived ISIL for two and a half years,” he said. “Instead we are grieving. Her life started with ISIL and was ended by them,” said Abdullah.

About 600,000 people are still in the areas of West Mosul held by ISIL, including 400,000 who are "trapped" in the Old City under siege-like conditions.

Throughout the morning, victims of the conflict arrived at the IOM and QRCS field hospital.

There was seven-year-old Ali, whose left foot had been amputated two days earlier and now needed post-operative treatment. His two aunts came with him as his mother, who had been injured, was now bedridden.

“Shhhh,” they whispered as Ali cried in pain. “He still doesn’t know he has lost a foot.”

Then came young Firas, 19, shot in the back by an ISIL sniper as he tried to flee Mosul al-Jadeeda that morning.

Another seven-year-old boy wailed in pain as the doctors checked the external metal fixators they had attached to his leg a week earlier. ISIL had fired mortar at his family’s house.

An elderly diabetic lady, Umm Omar, was wheeled in for post-operative care.

She was not a victim of sniper fire or shrapnel. Living under ISIL, especially in the last few months meant lack of access to medical support, insulin and healthy food, in addition to major stress. With no means of treating her medical condition, she developed gangrene and had to have both legs amputated below the knees.

Victim after victim, all from Mosul al-Jadeeda, streamed into the field hospital that morning telling a similar story – that ISIL deliberately shot at them as they tried to escape. They shot to kill, not differentiating between man, woman, child or the elderly.

The medical team at IOM’s field hospital worked tirelessly as the victims turned up. They soothed children and calmed adults while they cleaned, disinfected, treated and patched up the wounds.

But as the day progressed, the news worsened with reports emerging that over 130 civilians had been killed in the same neighbourhood, Mosul al-Jadeeda, by collation airstrikes.

ISIL has warned civilians about leaving the areas still under their control. In recent weeks as Iraqi forces advance in Mosul, they have imposed a mounting reign of terror on those civilians still entrapped.

With ISIL using civilians as human shields, even forcing their way into homes where families have gathered for safety and firing mortars from rooftops of houses with civilians in the lower floors, an increase in the number of innocent people being killed has been reported in recent weeks.

The IDPs and patients described the situation of many civilians still living inside West Mosul as extremely bleak. If they stay, the likelihood of being killed, either by coalition air strikes or Iraqi forces’ artillery, is high; if they leave, the chances that ISIL snipers, mortars and gunmen will kill them are high also.

But despite the risks of being shot by ISIL, many say the chance of making it out, however slim, is worth the try.

The latest DTM Emergency Tracking figures on displacement from Mosul operations are available at: 

Please click to download the latest:
IOM Iraq DTM Mosul Operations – Data Snapshot - March 28
IOM Iraq DTM Mosul Corridor Analysis - March 27
IOM Iraq DTM Mosul Operations - Factsheet - March 23

For further information, please contact IOM Iraq:
Hala Jaber, Tel. +964 751 740 1654, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or
Sandra Black, Tel. +964 751 234 2550, Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Agency: IOM
Last modified on Wednesday, 29 March 2017 11:14

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