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Iraq strains under largest internal refugee crisis since height of war

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Iraq refugeesIraq has the largest internal displacement since the height of the US war on its hands today as government forces try to wrest control of parts of Anbar Province back from militants, adding yet another source of instability to a country already teetering.

According to a Feb. 13 United Nations report, 62,679 families have fled since the fighting began at the end of December – 13,000 of them this week alone. With the UN's rough estimate of six people per family, that is more than 370,000 people, most of them pouring out of the Anbar cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. According to the report, 85 percent of Fallujah's population has been displaced.

Some are finding shelter in other parts of Anbar, but many are moving on to neighboring provinces, and an estimated 5,000 families have traveled to the relative safety of Iraqi Kurdistan in the north.

In Arbil, where most of the displaced headed to Kurdistan ended up, Yassir Qasr shows a photo of his house in Fallujah. The yellow cement wall is pockmarked with bullet holes and shattered window glass covers the ground.   

An engineer with the Ministry of Oil, Mr. Qasr came here with his wife, Rawa Abdullah, who is pregnant with twins. They left Fallujah on Jan. 10, when they found themselves caught in the crossfire between the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), Iraqi security forces, and local tribesmen fighting for control of parts of Anbar Province, Iraq’s largest province that lies between Baghdad and Syria to the west.


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