04:35 GMT +311 December 2019
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    FILE -- In this Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 file photo, people watch a burning oil well in Qayyarah, about 31 miles (50 km) south of Mosul, Iraq

    Oxfam Calls on Iraqi Government to Seek Help to Extinguish Mosul Oil Well Fires

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    Military Operation to Retake Mosul From Daesh (225)
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    The Iraqi government needs to explain why it has failed to extinguish a series of oil well fires that are contaminating water supplies and causing health problems for thousands of families in Mosul, a spokesman for the charity organization Oxfam told Sputnik on Saturday.

    EDINBURGH (Sputnik) – Oxfam spokesman Kai Tabacek, who is currently in Iraq monitoring the humanitarian impact of the US-backed Iraqi offensive against Daesh, urged the Iraqi Government to secure international support to help put out 19 oil well fires, set by the Islamic extremists in the Qayarrah area, south of Mosul.

    "We have no technical expertise in this area, but we understand that extinguishing these fires is a complex and costly operation. Oxfam is calling on the Iraqi government to prioritise extinguishing the fires and if necessary to seek support from other countries. We have had no indication that the Iraqi government has done this so far," Tabacek said.

    Asked whether any attempt had been made to extinguish the fires, Tabacek said, "local fire crews and residents have tried to put out the fires, but the extreme heat and fact that some of the wells are rigged with explosive devices, makes this both dangerous and ineffectual."

    He added that the government should also explain to communities what is being done about the fires and when they can expect the fires to be put out.

    "With several oil fields surrounding Mosul still under ISIS [Daesh's] control, the government should plan for a potentially bigger crisis involving more than a million civilians in Mosul," the spokesman added.

    Amnesty International, a NGO present in Iraq, warned that Iraqi tribal militias operating in support of the Iraqi Army and US backed assault on Mosul, were committing serious human rights violations, including the torture of civilians they believe have been sympathetic to Daesh.

    "We are very concerned about any reports of human rights violations committed by any of the armed forces. Oxfam is calling for all parties to the conflict, including armed forces supporting the offensive against Mosul, to abide by International Humanitarian Law. Civilians have a right to protection and access to humanitarian aid," Tabacek said.

    On October 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced the start of a military operation to recapture Mosul from Daesh with the help of airstrikes by the US-led international coalition. According to media reports, about 30,000 Iraqi soldiers and 4,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were initially taking part in the operation.

    Military Operation to Retake Mosul From Daesh (225)


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