Sunday, 26 February 2017

Iraqi forces facing stiff resistance in western Mosul; civilians flee

SOUTH OF MOSUL, Iraq: Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul Saturday amid stiff resistance from entrenched Daesh fighters, a commander on the scene said.
Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab Al-Saadi said that his troops are “moving very slowly” and that Daesh fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones.
The drones have caused relatively few deaths, but have inflicted dozens of light injuries that have disrupted the pace of ground operations.
Al-Saadi said he expects the pace to increase after Iraqi forces retake territory and infrastructure on Mosul’s southwestern edge — which will allow them to shorten supply lines and link up with forces in the city’s east.
On the edge of a small village south of Mosul, dozens of families gathered against a crude cinderblock wall. Many said they were from villages outside Mosul and had been forced to march to the city more than four months ago to serve as human shields.
“We’ve been through terrible times,” said Juri Fathi, a mother of six who was forced to live in a school in Mosul for three months. “I had to burn my children’s clothing just for warmth.”
Groups of men were screened at the site against a database of Daesh suspects and two prisoners were dragged past the crowd and into an abandoned building.
“We brought them directly from inside Mosul,” said an Iraqi special forces solider from inside the Humvee that delivered the detainees. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. “They were shooting at us, I saw them with my own eyes,” he said.
Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” in January after officially launching the operation to retake the city in October.
Civilians start to flee
About a thousand civilians, mostly women and children, walked out of southwestern parts of Mosul on Saturday and climbed into military trucks taking them to camps further south.
The United Nations says up to 400,000 people may have to leave their homes during the new offensive as food and fuel runs out in western Mosul. Aid groups warned on Friday that the most dangerous phase of the offensive was about to begin.
Some of the people fleeing the Mamoun area said they were originally from Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, but were forced to move four months ago as Daesh retreated north into the city.
"They began shelling us arbitrarily, so we hid in the bathrooms. When the security forces came, they yelled to us so we fled to them," said civilian Mahmoud Nawwaf.
The government is encouraging residents to stay in their homes whenever possible, as they did in eastern Mosul where fewer people fled than expected.
A Reuters correspondent near the airport saw nine families living in a house where residents with full beards served trays of tea to security forces. Some said Islamic State had forced them to move from Samarra, 250 km (160 miles) south of Mosul.
Abu Naba, 37, said he was surprised at how quickly the militants had been driven out.
"We could hear their voices outside and 15 minutes later they were gone," he said.
A woman with a baby wrapped in a blanket on her lap said she had given birth in the house 22 days ago because it was too dangerous to reach a hospital.
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Author: verified_user


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