UN Secretary General starts official visit to Iraq

BAGHDAD: The United Nations Secretary-General has arrived in Iraq amid a growing humanitarian crisis due to months-long fighting against Islamic State group fighters in Mosul.

The UN Assistance Mission to Iraq says Antonio Guterres landed in Baghdad on Thursday to focus on the dire humanitarian situation on the ground. Amid reports of dozens civilians killed by airstrikes in Mosul, the statement said that "protection of civilians must be the absolute priority."

UNAMI spokesman Samir Ghattas says Gutterres will meet Iraq's president, prime minster and Parliament speaker before heading north to visit displaced persons camps.

Since the start of Mosul military operation in October, more than 350,000 people fled the fighting, according to UN figures. Of those an estimated 76,000 people have returned to their areas, but suffering lack of services.