Monday 20 February 2017

Iraqi forces go house to house to clear jihadists from Mosul neighbourhoods

Susannah George

Published 07/11/2016 | 02:30

A member of Iraqi security forces carries a child as displaced people who fled Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, head to safety Picture: Reuters
A member of Iraqi security forces carries a child as displaced people who fled Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, head to safety Picture: Reuters

Iraq's special forces worked to clear neighbourhoods on the eastern edge of Isil-held Mosul as at least 20 people were killed elsewhere in bombings carried out by the group.

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The Mosul offensive slowed in recent days as Iraqi forces pushed into more densely populated areas, where they cannot rely as much on air strikes and shelling because of the risk to civilians, who have been told to stay in their homes. "There are a lot of civilians and we are trying to protect them," said Lt Col Muhanad al-Timimi. "This is one of the hardest battles that we've faced till now."

Some civilians are fleeing the combat zone, while Isil militants are holding others back as human shields, making it harder for Iraqi commanders on the ground to get approval for requested US-led coalition air strikes.

Iraq's special forces are some of the country's best troops, but they still largely rely on air support to clear terrain.

Iraqi forces first entered the eastern edge of the city on Tuesday. Forces began pushing into Mosul proper on Friday, but have advanced about 2km into the city so far.

On the southern front, Iraqi forces are still some 20km from the city centre. The fighting is centred on the town of Hamam al-Alil, where gunfire was heard and attack helicopters fired on Isil positions.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters launched mortar rounds and fired heavy artillery at the Isil-held town of Bashiqa, about 12km north-east of Mosul. Kurdish forces have encircled the town which is believed to be empty except for Isil fighters.

Irish Independent

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