Iraq forces ‘retake third of west Mosul from ISIL’
MOSUL - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoIraqi forces have retaken more than a third of west Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a commander said, as Baghdad’s troops fought March 12 to advance deeper into the city. Iraqi forces launched the operation to recapture west Mosul, the most populated urban area still under ISIL control, on Feb. 19, retaking a series of areas as they advanced up from the south.
Officers have said that resistance is weakening, but tough fighting, including in the Old City, a warren of narrow streets and closely-spaced buildings where hundreds of thousands of civilians may still reside, remains ahead.
“Around more than a third of the right bank [west Mosul] is under the control of our units,” Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service told AFP.
CTS forces were battling ISIL inside the Mosul al-Jadida and Al-Aghawat areas in west Mosul on March 12, said Saadi, adding that he expected the fighting there to be completed in the coming hours.
And Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that forces from the Rapid Response Division, another special forces unit, and the federal police were attacking the Bab al-Toub area on the edge of the Old City.
But the process of advancing in Mosul is laborious, Saadi said.
“We are not able to leave pockets [of jihadists] behind us; therefore, the advance includes taking control of areas and searching and clearing them and security checks on the citizens present, then the continuation of the advance,” he said.
ISIL militants are “still relying on explosives-rigged vehicles and suicide bombers and snipers” and units that aim to slow the Iraqi advance, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the JOC, told AFP.
“The battle is not easy... we are fighting an irregular enemy who hides among the citizens and uses tactics of booby-trapping, explosions and suicide bombers, and the operation is taking place with precision to preserve the lives of the citizens,” Rasool said.
But ISIL resistance “has begun to weaken in a big way,” he said.
The battle against ISIL inside west Mosul is being spearheaded by CTS and the Rapid Response Division, the latter of which is working with the federal police.
Outside Mosul, Iraqi army forces and pro-government paramilitaries are operating against ISIL to the west of the city.
On March 11, the Hashed al-Shaabi -- an umbrella organization for paramilitary groups that is dominated by Iran-backed Shiite militias -- announced the discovery of a large mass grave northwest of Mosul.
The Hashed said the grave contained the remains of around 500 people killed by ISIL at the Badush prison, a figure that could not be independently confirmed, but which was in keeping with accounts from Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.