Thursday 25 May 2017

Iraqi forces storm university

Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) run with their weapons during clashes with Islamic State militants in frontline near university of Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Reuters/Ahmed Saad
Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) run with their weapons during clashes with Islamic State militants in frontline near university of Mosul, Iraq. Photo: Reuters/Ahmed Saad

Zeina Karam Damascus

Iraqi special forces stormed the Mosul University complex in the city's northeast yesterday and pushed Isil back to reach two farther bridges across the Tigris river, the military said.

The militants were fighting back at Mosul University, which they seized when they took over the city in 2014. A Reuters reporter witnessed heavy clashes inside the campus.

Iraqi forces have recaptured most districts in eastern Mosul in nearly three months of a US-backed offensive, which accelerated at the turn of the year with new tactics and better co-ordination.

They aim to take full control of the eastern bank of the Tigris river, which bisects Mosul from north to south, before launching attacks on the west, still fully in Isil hands.

Driving the ultra-hardline Islamist group out of its Mosul stronghold will probably spell the end for the Iraqi side of the caliphate it has declared, stretching into Syria.

By late yesterday, Iraqi elite forces had taken control of part of the university complex and reached two more of the five bridges that link east and west Mosul, Sabah al-Numan, spokesman for the counter-terrorism service (CTS) said.

"God willing, in a very short while we will announce the clearing of the entire left bank...there are not many areas left [under Isil control] on this bank," he told state television.

Iraqi forces have now reached Mosul's three southernmost bridges, having battled their way to the Fourth Bridge several days ago.

Senior CTS commander Sami al-Aridhi said the university was the most important Isil base in the eastern half of the city.

"Forces are heading into the depths of the university," Mr Aridhi said early in the day, after bulldozers smashed through a wall surrounding the campus and dozens of CTS troops sprinted through carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

An Iraqi officer said army units backed by air strikes had also taken control of Hadba district, north of the university, and would aid the assault on the complex.

Irish Independent

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