Published: Mon, March 20, 2017
Global | By Doris Richards

111000 displaced from western Mosul: Iraq minister

111000 displaced from western Mosul: Iraq minister

They reclaimed the eastern part of the city before embarking on a major push on February 19 to recapture the more densely-populated western part.

Amid battles to liberate the western side of Mosul from Daesh, Iraqi forces retake control of a third bridge crossing over Tigris River which divides the northern city into two parts.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since retaken most of the territory they lost, launching the operation to retake Mosul - the country's last IS-held city - in October.

Over 65,000 have fled their homes in the past few weeks, according to the International Organization for Migration and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA).

An Iraqi special forces soldier carries a woman injured during a battle between Iraqi forces and IS fighters in Mosul. The southernmost two have already been retaken.

Near the Mosul Museum, Iraq forces used armoured vehicles and tanks to attack snipers pinning down troops clearing areas around the bridge.

"We are still moving toward the Iron Bridge. We are taking out snipers hiding in the surrounding building, we are still pushing for the Iron Bridge", Brig.

Since starting the offensive in October, Iraqi forces with USA -led coalition support have retaken eastern Mosul and about 30 percent of the west from the militants, who are outnumbered but fiercely defending their last stronghold in Iraq.

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"It's very key for our forces to secure the riverside and prevent Daesh militants from turning around our advancing forces", a Rapid Response spokesman said. Most left in the dark early morning hours or after the army recaptured their neighbourhoods.

The Federal Police and Rapid Response said at the weekend they had entered the old city.

Until the latest phase of the battle to take western Mosul, the campaign had gone well with lower-than-expected civilian losses, Khanjar said crediting the professionalism of the USA trained elite forces.

These are the conditions Islamic State fighters holed up in the city centre relish.

"It was street-by-street - now it's house-by-house", a member of the Iraqi Security Forces told Reuters. western Mosul has much narrower streets than the east, rendering some of the Iraqi's armored humvee's useless.

Mainstream Sunnis believe the Shi'ite led administration has discriminated against them and also say Shi'ite Iran's influence has expanded in the security forces and paramilitary groups.

According to the IOM, more than 238,000 people are now displaced due to fighting in the Mosul area, while more fled but later returned to their homes.

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