In touch with countries to locate 39 Indians missing in Iraq

Iraq Repels ISIS Counter-Attack in Western Mosul

Iraq Repels ISIS Counter-Attack in Western Mosul

The global body's refugee agency said the jihadi group's snipers were firing at civilians attempting to leave the Old City on foot or across the Tigris river.

"We are in touch with all countries that can help us", Baglay added, but was unwilling to say more on the subject, which he described as a sensitive one.

Three years after they went missing, the government on Friday said that 39 Indian construction workers mostly from Punjab, who were taken hostage by Islamic State militants in Iraq's war-torn Mosul, were alive and "everything possible" was being done to ensure their safe return.

The operation came as Iraqi security forces, backed by the anti-IS global coalition, were simultaneously conducting a major offensive to dislodge IS militants from their major stronghold in western Mosul.

US -backed Iraqi forces have been battling the extremists in Mosul, the country's second largest city, since October.

Up to 100,000 civilians in west Mosul are suffering from lack of food, water and fuel as the Iraqi and US-led coalition forces try desperately to free the remaining two districts in the old city from ISIS militants, expected to involve what the United Nations described as "hand by hand, house to house" fighting.

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"More than 100,000 civilians may still be held in the Old City".

"We know that ISIS moved them with them as they left... locations where the fighting was going on", he said.

In an interview, the UN Deputy Special Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq said conditions in the old city of Mosul are desperate with very little food and no clean water.

Our correspondent said that the final battle in the dense streets of the Old City - believed to be held by around 1,000 ISIL fighters preparing to fight to the death - means that a large number of civilians will be trapped amid what the US-led coalition has described as possibly being some of the toughest urban fighting in recent decades. Since ISIS has suffered serious setbacks in their fight to retain Mosul, it is likely that they are now holding hostages and using them as human shield.

More than half a million people have been displaced from west Mosul since the campaign began to defeat the ISIS group there, following the liberation of the eastern half in January.

Geddo said the UNHCR opened its 13th camp two weeks ago to accommodate the growing numbers of people fleeing Mosul.

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