Geneva: At least 180,000 people have fled the central Iraqi town of Hit over the weekend after the Islamic State (IS) militants captured it, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Tuesday.
The town, located some 180 km to the west of Baghdad, used to be a safe haven for those who had fled earlier waves of violence in Ramadi, Fallujah and other parts of Anbar province which borders Syria, and provided shelter for some 100,000 displaced people, Xinhua reported.
But the latest IS offensive triggered a fresh wave of displacements that led residents of the town flee to other places in Anbar and Baghdad.
"The exodus from Hit represents the fourth major wave of displacement in less than a year in Iraq.
"Tens of thousands of desperate Iraqis are now caught in a rolling wave of multiple displacements amidst the conflict's shifting frontlines," UNHCR spokesman Melissa Fleming said in a press conference.
UNHCR said that an estimated 1.8 million citizens have been internally displaced this year throughout Iraq, in addition to around a million existing internally-displaced persons who had fled violence in previous years.