Saturday 24 February 2018

Iraqi forces take key bridge as noose tightens around Isil in Mosul

A member of the Iraqi police prays as Iraqi forces clash with Isil fighters in Mosul. Photo: Getty/AFP
A member of the Iraqi police prays as Iraqi forces clash with Isil fighters in Mosul. Photo: Getty/AFP

Isabel Coles Mosul

US-backed Iraqi forces captured the second of Mosul's five bridges yesterday, giving a boost to their onslaught on Isil's remaining stronghold in the western part of the city.

All of Mosul's five bridges have been destroyed but the capture of the remaining parts on the West bank of the Tigris facilitates the movement of forces progressing up the river that cuts Mosul in two.

The bridge seized, al-Hurriya, is the second after one located further south. Its capture shields the back of the forces advancing towards a nearby complex of government buildings.

"We control the western end of the bridge," said a media officer with Rapid Response, the elite unit of the Interior Ministry leading the charge towards the complex.

Rapid Response and Federal Police units yesterday took the court of justice and Nineveh police directorate buildings, neither of which were used by Isil.

"In the coming hours our forces will raise the Iraqi flag over the governorate building," Federal Police Brigadier General Shaalan Ali Saleh said.

Recapturing the area would help Iraqi forces attack the militants in the old city and mark a symbolic step towards restoring state authority over Mosul, even though the buildings are destroyed and not being used by Isil.

The battle for Mosul, which started on October 17, will enter a more complicated phase in the densely populated old city where, the Iraqi military believes, several thousand militants are among the remaining civilian population, which aid agencies estimated to number 750,000 at the start of the latest offensive.

The militants have barricaded streets with civilian vehicles and rigged them with explosives to hinder the advance of Iraqi forces who were also met with sniper, machinegun and mortar fire, as well as explosives dropped from drones.

Defeating Isil in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, from Mosul's grand Nuri mosque.

Irish Independent

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