12 March Senior US commander on Mosul advance
20 March, 2017, 00:54
Soon thereafter, USA -backed Iraqi troops and their allies recaptured the eastern half of the city, but the terrorists are putting up a tougher fight to defend western Mosul.
Fighting to drive Islamic State from western Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq, has involved close-quarter street battles, with Iraqi forces advancing block by block as they approach the most densely populated parts of the city.
Iraqi troops are battling for control of a bridge over the Tigris river in Mosul as civilians continue to flee the western part of the city.
On Sunday, the minister put the number of people to have fled western Mosul since February 19 - when fresh army operations were launched to capture the area from the Daesh terrorist group - at some 100,000.
"We [are] moving on the old bridge. and then we will free that area and hopefully in a few days we'll liberate the west side of Mosul", a captain from the security forces said.
The renewed fighting has focused on a bridge over the River Tigris. "We are taking out snipers hiding in the surrounding building, we are still pushing for the Iron Bridge", Brig.
In mid-2014, when ISIS seized large swathes of Iraq and Syria, the jihadist group took Mosul, once considered the terrorist group's de facto capital in Iraq, much like what Raqqa is to the jihadist group in Syria.astern Mosul fell to the anti-ISIS U.S. -backed offensive of almost 100,000 Iraqi government troops, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and Iran-backed Shiite militias, among other fighters.
Rapid Response troops operating around the museum last week had already said it was hard for them to consolidate gains from raids without areas behind them fully secured. Most left in the dark early morning hours or after the army recaptured their neighbourhoods.
Soldiers from the 9th Armored Division scored an important victory on Saturday night when they cut the last road out of west Mosul, said Brett McGurk, the USA envoy to the worldwide anti-IS coalition.
United States envoy Brett McGurk said on Sunday that the remaining western Mosul neighbourhoods held by ISIL were surrounded and the group had lost more than 60 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq. "There has been a lot of shelling by Daesh", said Hamid Hadi, a teacher.
More than 200,000 have been displaced since the start of the campaign in October.
These are the conditions Islamic State fighters holed up in the city centre relish.
"The daily displacement rate from western Mosul now stands at between 7,000 and 8,000 people", he said.
Losing the city would be a huge blow to Islamic State as it has served as the group's de facto capital since its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself head of a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria from the Nuri Mosque in July 2014.
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