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Oct 27, 6:16 AM EDT

UN preparing for possible chemical attack in Iraq's Mosul

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AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- The U.N.'s public health agency said Thursday it has trained 90 Iraqi medics in "mass casualty management," with a special focus on chemical attacks, as part of its preparations for Iraq's operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group.

The extremist group, which has ruled Iraq's second largest city for more than two years, is believed to have crude chemical weapons capabilities, and Iraqi forces say they are prepared to encounter them on the battlefield.

The World Health Organization said Wednesday that of the 700,000 people expected to flee Mosul, some 200,000 will require emergency health services, including more than 90,000 children needing vaccinations and 8,000 pregnant women.

The operation to retake Mosul began Oct. 17 and is expected to take weeks, if not months. The International Organization for Migration says around 9,000 people have fled so far.

The fighting has not yet reached the city itself, which is home to more than a million people.

The United Nations' refugee agency is shipping tents, blankets and other aid from the United Arab Emirates to northern Iraq to help those affected by the military campaign. The UNHCR shipment, which left Dubai's International Humanitarian City on Thursday, is expected to reach those affected as soon as Friday.

Soliman Mohamed Daud, a senior UNHCR supply officer, told The Associated Press that 7,000 units of the relief aid will be sent to northern Iraq. The UAE shipment that left Thursday includes some 1,500 kits.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces, backed by U.S. advisers and airstrikes, began the operation to retake Iraq's second-largest city earlier this month. Aid groups fear that a mass exodus from Mosul could overwhelm camps for displaced people set up around its outskirts.

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