An Iraqi man carries his children near the town of Bartella as people return to their liberated neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul on January 7, 2017
An Iraqi man carries his children near the town of Bartella as people return to their liberated neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul on January 7, 2017 © Dimitar DILKOFF - AFP/File
An Iraqi man carries his children near the town of Bartella as people return to their liberated neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul on January 7, 2017
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AFP
Last updated: January 25, 2017

Hundreds of families leave Iraq camps for Mosul return

Banner Icon Conflict Hundreds of families who fled Mosul last year left displacement camps Wednesday 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 October 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 organising 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 told AFP 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 neighbourhood 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.

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