Up to 500,000 people have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul since the government forces launched an operation in order to liberate the city from ISIS, Abdul Sattar Habbo, Mosul municipality chief, told Sputnik on Friday.

“Within last several days over 50,000 people fled western Mosul district, so the total number of refugees from this region since the start of the operation is reaching 500,000,” Habbo said.

This came after the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that more than 367,000 civilians had been displaced by Mosul operations.

ISIS terrorist group took over Mosul, a strategic city, in June 2014.

Since the operation aimed at liberating the strategic city from terrorists started in October 2016, the Iraqi forces have been able to liberated eastern part of the city.

The Iraqi army began the operation to liberate western Mosul from ISIS in February.

Iraqi President Fuad Masum in March described the humanitarian situation in Mosul as “catastrophic”, adding that however, it would not be “sensible” to leave the city to terrorists.

The U.S. has been blamed for 2003 invasion of Iraq that according to analysts created the conditions for ISIS and other terrorists to emerge in Iraq.