Published: Tue, February 21, 2017
Health Care | By Kelly Miles

Iraq launches operation to retake western Mosul from ISIS

Iraq launches operation to retake western Mosul from ISIS

Iraqi government forces captured several villages on Sunday, as they advanced on their offensive to liberate the western part of the city that is still under control of Islamic State, Iraqi military said.

US -backed coalition forces have captured most of the eastern part of the city, the self-declared capital of the Islamic State (IS) militants' "caliphate" in Iraq.

The announcement of the attack marks the beginning of what could be an even tougher and more lethal phase of the fight for Mosul, the largest city that fell under ISIS control.

Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said: "We are racing against the clock to prepare emergency sites south of Mosul to receive displaced families".

By the time Sunday set in, jets from the US -led coalition had begun air strikes on ISIS positions southwest of Mosul and Iraqi police forces were mobilizing just outside the city, according to The Associated Press. But the heaviest fighting is likely to come when the soldiers get into built up areas where the militant group has been digging tunnels and holes cut through the walls of houses so they can conduct a mobile defence away from artillery fire and airstrikes.

Human-rights groups have accused Iraqi forces and paramilitary groups of meting out brutal, gratuitous violence during this process.

Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), who have urban warfare experience and did most of the fighting in east Mosul, were seen heading across the desert to the western side of Mosul.

IS have previously threatened to kill any of the estimated 350,000 children still in Mosul if they try to leave the city.

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James Mattis, the USA defence secretary, declined to offer details about U.S. battle plans when speaking to reporters in the United Arab Emirates.

The US commander in Iraq, Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, has said he believes US-backed forces will recapture both of Islamic State's major strongholds - Mosul and the city of Raqqa in Syria - within the next six months. Two suicide bombers, who emerged today, blew themselves up, killing three soldiers and two civilians and injuring many more.

The U.S. -led military coalition said earlier on Saturday its forces had destroyed a building in the main medical complex of western Mosul that was suspected of housing an Islamic State command centre.

Commanders expect the battle to be more hard than it was in the east because tanks and armoured vehicles can not pass through western Mosul's narrow alleyways.

According to estimates, between 750,000 and 800,000 civilians reside in the western section of Mosul.

The fight against the Islamic State seem to be on the last stages in Iraq with rescue of Mosul from the jihadist group imminent.

Mattis arrived in Baghdad on Tuesday, as the Pentagon considers ways to accelerate the campaign against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

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