Baghdad- Hundreds of families who fled Mosul last year left displacement camps Wednesday to head back to their homes, in the biggest wave yet of returns to the city, officials said.
“We are now taking 500 families, which means 2,700 people, to their liberated houses,” local official Mustafa Hamid Sarhan told Agence France Presse at the Khazir camp, which lies southeast of Mosul.
According to the United Nations, more than 180,000 people have been displaced since the start of the offensive but at least 22,000 have since returned to their homes.
Iraqi forces recently completed their recapture of eastern Mosul, which tens of thousands of people had fled since the October 17 start of a massive offensive against ISIS.
At least 50 buses lined up for families cleaning up their tents and packing their belongings for the journey home.
One of them was Dhabbah Mohammed Khader, a 45-year-old woman from the neighborhood of Al-Zahraa who was about to return to her home with two of her sons.
“I’m so happy we finally got rid of Daesh,” she said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“We can go back home now,” said the woman, tears running down her wrinkled face.
Meanwhile, life is starting to return to Mosul’s east bank.
According to the German news agency dpa, residents celebrated through carnivals and folk dances. In many areas, shops reopened and venders were back to the streets despite harsh conditions including lack of running water and electricity.
Iraqi military sources said that the liberation of Mosul’s west bank is a matter of time.
The area is still fully controlled by ISIS and expected to see bitter street fighting in the weeks ahead.