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Iraqi forces retake more areas in west Mosul

By AFP - Apr 20,2017 - Last updated at Apr 20,2017

Iraqi forces, from the elite Rapid Response Division, fire mortars towards Daesh group positions, during their advance in western Mosul on Wednesday, as part of their campaign to retake the city from Daesh militants (AFP photo)

MOSUL, Iraq — Iraqi forces retook two more neighbourhoods in west Mosul on Thursday, tightening the noose around extremists holed up in the Old City, commanders said.

"The forces completed the liberation of Al Thawra neighbourhood," Sabah Al Noman, spokesman for the elite Counter-Terrorism Service, told AFP.

An officer with federal police forces also deployed in west Mosul confirmed that the neighbourhood, which lies just west of the Old City, had been retaken from the Daesh terror group.

The Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against the extremists nationwide said the Nasr neighbourhood was also retaken on Thursday.

The head of Iraq's federal police, Raed Shakir Jawdat, also said in a statement that Iraqi forces had killed a senior Daesh operative, who had been in charge of chemical weapons for the group in Mosul, in a guided missile strike in the Zanjili neighbourhood.

A US official said on Wednesday that Iraqi forces working alongside US and Australian military advisers had been targeted in a Daesh attack that used a low-level chemical agent in west Mosul.

Major General Joseph Martin said nobody died as a result of the attack.

Iraqi forces in mid-October last year launched a huge operation, their largest in years, to retake second city Mosul.

They retook the side of the city that lies east of the Tigris River in January and launched a push on remaining Daesh militants in western Mosul, which is more densely populated and has seen fierce fighting.

On the west bank, Iraqi forces control southern neighbourhoods and are slowly surrounding the Old City, whose narrow streets are expected to make federal operations very difficult.

An estimated 400,000 civilians are believed to still be there, unwilling or unable to leave because any escape would be too dangerous or because the extremists are using them as human shields.

The loss of Mosul would be a death blow to the “caliphate” Daesh proclaimed after capturing the city in a massive offensive in June 2014.

According to an Iraqi military spokesman, the extremist militants only control 7 per cent of Iraq, down from the 40 per cent of the national territory over which they ruled three years ago.

The only two other significant towns Daesh still holds are Hawija and Tal Afar. The radical militants also control territory in remote areas of western Iraq, near the Syrian border.

Iraqi forces on Thursday launched a fresh push against Daesh-held villages there, as part of a months-old operation to retake areas along the Euphrates in western Anbar province.

 

A senior officer said the forces involved in the operation included the army, local tribal fighters and military advisers from the US-led coalition assisting Iraq in the anti-Daesh war.

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