Unrest as Mosul civilians overwhelm aid trucks

The Iraqi government has been sending aid trucks in to help residents in the embattled city, but chaos has meant that they haven't gotten far into the city.

Alaa Al-Marjani /Reuters
Iraqis gather water in Mosul on Saturday.

Chaos erupted in eastern Mosul on Sunday when hundreds of civilians overwhelmed aid trucks distributing food and water.

The Iraqi government has called on Mosul's residents to stay in their homes during the operation to retake the city from the Islamic State group, hoping to avoid large-scale displacement, but as progress on the ground slows, hundreds of thousands are now stuck with dwindling food and water supplies.

The Iraqi government sent truckloads of food, heating oil and drinking water to residents in areas retaken from IS on Sunday, but few of the trucks could make it to civilians trapped near front-line fighting.

"There is no justice," Abu Ahmed said during a chaotic distribution in the Samah neighborhood on the eastern edge of Mosul. "Some people took so many bags of food and others got nothing." He asked that his full name not be used out of security concerns.

While the trucks bore banners identifying them as distributing aid on behalf of the local government, there were no government or security officials present in Samah during the melee that ensued.

Men, women and children fought over bags of flour and baskets of apples.

"We are desperate, this is the first time I've seen aid trucks," Abu Ahmed said. He said the food and water residents had stockpiled before the start of the operation had run out.

At one point, Iraqi soldiers fired into the air in an attempt to clear the street to make way for ambulances carrying casualties from the front.

Younis Shamal, a teenager from Mosul, watched crowds fighting over food and water scatter from the far side of the road. "Our lives used to be very normal, we would just go to work and come home at the end of the day," he said, "this has turned us into uncivilized people."

More than six weeks in, the battle for Mosul is proceeding slowly, with Iraqi forces battling street by street against heavily armed militants who have launched scores of suicide car bomb attacks.

In the Shaimaa neighborhood, soldiers and IS fighters exchanged heavy gunfire from rooftops as Iraqi forces tried to advance down narrow residential streets. IS militants shelled the district with a heavy barrage of mortar rounds, according to AP reporters at the scene.

Diaa Sallal, a senior Iraqi relief official, told The Associated Press that the supplies were being delivered to the towns of Bartella and Qayara, near Mosul, as well as two outlying Mosul neighborhoods. Sallal, reached by telephone in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, gave no further details.

Scores of families continue to brave ongoing fighting to flee IS-held districts for the relative safety of neighborhoods retaken by government troops or camps for the displaced outside the city.

Deeper inside Mosul, Iraqi special forces set up a tight security perimeter around a more organized aid distribution in the Bakr neighborhood. Hundreds of men and women lined up along a residential street as Iraqi special forces handed out boxes of aid.

But with the front line just over a hundred meters (yards) away, only a small number of aid trucks could reach the neighborhood.

Soldiers screened the civilians as gunfire echoed nearby. Ambulances and armored vehicles carrying wounded soldiers came screaming past after an IS suicide car bomb struck a nearby army position.

Elsewhere in Iraq, security forces in the northern Kurdish region shot and killed two of four people who resisted arrest in a village near the Iranian border. Nasah Mala Hassan, the mayor of a nearby town, said the other two blew themselves up, and that an armed Kurdish civilian was killed. It was not immediately clear whether the suspects were members of an armed group.

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