Tuesday 25 July 2017

Thousands flee Isil-held areas as fierce battle rages in west Mosul

A tribute to dead journalist Shifa Gardi in the offices of Kurdish network Rudaw Photo: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images
A tribute to dead journalist Shifa Gardi in the offices of Kurdish network Rudaw Photo: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Susannah George

Iraqi militarised police have captured an area on the western side of Mosul amid fierce clashes with Isil militants, as thousands of people continued to flee government-controlled areas, security officials said.

Iraqi forces, backed by aerial support by the US-led international coalition, launched a new push last week to drive Isil from Mosul's west.

They have captured so far the city's international airport and an adjacent military base.

Iraqi authorities declared Mosul's eastern half "fully liberated" from the Sunni militants in January, three months after launching the operation to take back Iraq's second-largest city.

At dawn yesterday, the Federal Police Commandos Division moved into the Tayaran area amid fierce clashes, Major General Haider al-Maturi said.

He said the neighbourhood "is now under their full control".

Maj Gen Al-Maturi said Isil militants deployed at least 10 suicide car bombs, but nine of them were blown up before reaching their targets.

The tenth killed two policemen and wounded five. Maj Gen Al-Maturi said his forces arrested two militants - an Iraqi and a foreigner who speaks Russian.

Elsewhere, up to 3,000 people fled from the Mamun area yesterday morning, according to Iraqi special forces Brigadier General Salam Hashed, who oversees a screening centre south of Mosul. He said just over 2,500 people fled the previous day.

According to UN figures, about 750,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in their houses in western Mosul, one of several challenges expected to slow the advance of the Iraqi troops. Another complication is western Mosul's old and narrow streets, which will force Iraqi soldiers to leave the relative safety of their armoured vehicles.

Meanwhile, colleagues have paid tribute to a Kurdish journalist who was killed by a road side bomb while she was reporting on the battle to recapture Mosul.

Shifa Gardi, a presenter and head of output for Rudar, an Iraqi Kurdish television station, was killed on Saturday while investigating mass graves which had been left behind by Isil in the Mosul area.

Ms Gardi (30) was interviewing the commander of a Shiite militia unit near a large hole believed to have been used as a mass grave when the commander inadvertently stepped on a trip wire which set off the bomb on Saturday afternoon.

The blast killed Ms Gardi, the commander, and four other fighters, Rudaw said in a statement yesterday.

Younis Mustafa , her cameraman, and seven other fighters were injured.

Ms Gardi and Mustafa had been making a report about the so called "valley of death", an area 20km south of Mosul and 5km from the main Baghdad-Mosul road that is believed to have been used by Isil for mass executions.

Ms Gardi was the presenter of 'Focus Mosul', a special daily news programme focusing on the battle. She had recently started broadcasting from within the city itself.

Irish Independent

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