Elite Iraqi forces were engaged in “intense” fighting with jihadis in eastern Mosul yesterday, an officer said, as civilians gathered on the city’s outskirts to flee.
Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake the country’s second city from Isis on 17 October, and Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) special forces have pushed the jihadis back from some Mosul neighbourhoods.
But there are still thought to be weeks, if not months, of fighting ahead in the battle to recapture the last Isis-held Iraqi city, and aid workers have warned that displacement of civilians may rise as Iraqi troops push deeper into Mosul.
“The fighting is intense this morning. We’re trying to fortify our positions in Arbajiyah before continuing our attack into Al-Bakr,” said Staff Lieutenant Colonel Muntadhar Salem of CTS, referring to two areas in Mosul.
Lt Col Salem later clarified that the aim was to surround Al-Bakr but not to assault it for now.
Staff Lt Col Ali Fadhel also confirmed that objective, saying: “[We] are advancing towards Al-Bakr so that we can surround it.”
The jihadis are also using drones for observation, one of which was shot down by CTS forces, Fadhel said.
Lt Col Salem added: “There were three car bombs coming out from Al-Bakr toward our positions that we spotted with our drone and hit with our tanks”.
As fighting raged deeper in the city, civilians, some carrying white flags, walked toward its outskirts, gathering near an Iraqi military truck that would take them out of the city to safety.
More than 49,000 people have been displaced since the Mosul operation began, the International Organisation for Migration said on Saturday.
Aid workers have said that a million or more people could be displaced by the battle for Mosul, indicating that the situation is set to worsen.
Isis overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained significant ground from the jihadis.
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- Colonel Muntadhar Salem
- Colonel Ali Fadhel
- Islamic State
- Counter-Terrorism Service
- car bombs
- International Organisation for Migration