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Hundreds of families leave Iraq camps for Mosul return

MOSUL: Civilians flee their neighborhoods due to fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants, in eastern Mosul, Iraq, yesterday. —AP

KHAZIR, Iraq: Hundreds of families who fled Mosul last year left displacement camps yesterday to head back to their homes, in the biggest wave yet of returns to the city, officials said. Iraqi forces recently completed their recapture of eastern Mosul, which tens of thousands of people had fled since the Oct 17 start of a massive offensive against the Islamic State group.

According to the United Nations, more than 180,000 people have been displaced since the start of the offensive but at least 22,000 have since returned to their homes. The authorities have been organizing returns from Khazir and Hasansham displacement camps twice a week. “We are now taking 500 families, which means 2,700 people, to their liberated houses,” local official Mustafa Hamid Sarhan said at the Khazir camp, which lies southeast of Mosul.

“This is the biggest wave,” he added, as at least 50 buses lined up for families cleaning up their tents and packing their belongings for the journey home. One of them was Dhabbah Mohammed Khader, a 45-year-old woman from the neighborhood of Al-Zahraa who was about to return to her home with two of her sons. “I’m so happy we finally got rid of Daesh,” she said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. “We can go back home now,” said the woman, tears running down her wrinkled face. The continued presence in east Mosul of hundreds of civilians as Iraqi forces advanced through the streets has restricted all sides in their choice of weapons and the city has suffered relatively limited destruction. —AFP

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