Middle East

Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops and allied forces launched an offensive last month to retake Mosul, which was seized by IS more than two years ago
The spike in casualties comes as a major offensive to retake the IS stronghold of Mosul enters seventh week

Close to 2,000 members of the Iraqi security forces were killed in November across the country, along with hundreds of civilians, the United Nations said Thursday.

The figure increased threefold from October, when tens of thousands of forces launched a huge assault to retake the Islamic State group's last major Iraqi bastion of Mosul.

According to the UN mission in Iraq's monthly tally, 1,959 Iraqi forces were killed last month and at least 450 others wounded.

The toll includes members of the army, police who are engaged in combat, the Kurdish peshmerga, interior ministry forces and pro-government paramilitaries.

The UN statement also said at least 926 civilians were killed, bringing to 2,885 the number of Iraqis killed in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict last month.

"The casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims," the top UN envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, said.

The spike in casualties comes as a major offensive to retake the IS stronghold of Mosul, Iraq's largest military operation in years, enters its seventh week.

Kubis said the growing death toll was largely a result of the jihadists' ferocious defence of Mosul, the city where they proclaimed their now crumbling "caliphate" in 2014.

"Daesh (IS) has been employing the most vicious tactics, using civilian homes as firing positions as well as abducting and forcibly moving civilians, effectively using them as human shields," he said.

The UN did not provide a regional breakdown of the overall toll but its casualty figures have been going up steadily since the launch of the Mosul offensive on October 17.

The number of members of the Iraqi forces killed released by the UN for October was 672.

The highest number of civilian deaths recorded in November was in Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, with 332, the UN figures showed.

The UN explained it had few reliable figures for the western province of Anbar, which has seen continued IS-related violence in recent weeks, and suggested that real casualty figures were likely higher.

The government in Baghdad and the authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region rarely divulge casualty figures during a military operation.

The ongoing Mosul offensive is no exception and the myriad forces involved have remained mum on losses within their ranks.

Burials at the main Shiite cemetery of Najaf however, as well as partial figures provided by local officials across the country and the number of obituaries posted on Facebook pointed to significant losses among the security forces.

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