Nearly half of all casualties in the Iraqi offensive to recapture Mosul are civilians, the UN has said.

The organisation warned of an impending crisis long before the US-backed campaign to take the city began in October. However, those warnings had focused on the large number of people who would be displaced in the fighting.

But three months into the campaign, the crisis is far more severe than the UN predicted, with civilians bearing an unusually high ratio of the death toll.

"You would expect in a conflict like this that the number of civilian casualties would be around 15%, a high of 20%," Lisa Grande, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq said on Wednesday (11 January).

"What we're seeing in Mosul is that nearly 50% of all casualties are in fact civilians.

"It's clear that this is because of direct targeting by combatants. They're being targeted by ISIL," she added, using an alternative name for the Islamic State (Isis).

No figure of the estimated death toll was provided, but conservative numbers suggest several thousand have been killed.

The displacement problem continues to grow in a city with a 1.5m population. More than 110,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

Of those, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated over 50,000 were children.

Iraqi forces
Iraqi forces patrol a street in Mosul next to Al-Salam hospital in the al-Wihdah neighbourhood after recapturing the area from Isis Mahmoud al-Samarrai/AFP

It comes as the US Department of Defense announced that the majority of Mosul has been recaptured by US-backed forces, which includes Iraq's Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).

The Iraqis "believe [the fight is] between 70 and 80% complete with eastern Mosul," Army Colonel Brett Sylvia said.

"And really, in terms of kind of the doctrinal definition of defeat, you can say that there has been a defeat there because they have certainly broken [Isis'] will to fight... in earnest, in eastern Mosul."

On Tuesday (10 January), Lt. Gen Talib Shaghati, a top Iraqi commander, told the Associated Press (AP) that efforts to defeat the terror group could be complete in three months.