MOSUL: Iraqi security forces have seized control of more than a third of west Mosul, a commander said on Sunday, after a week of steady gains in their battle to retake the city from Daesh.
Fierce fighting has shaken Mosul in recent days as thousands of US-backed Iraqi soldiers and police battle to reclaim the country’s second city.
A renewed push against the militants launched last Sunday has seen Daesh forced from several neighborhoods and key sites, including the main local government headquarters and the famed Mosul museum.
Speaking to AFP on Sunday, Staff Maj. Gen. Maan Al-Saadi of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said “more than a third” of west Mosul was now under the control of security forces.
CTS forces were battling Daesh inside the Mosul Al-Jadida and Al-Aghawat areas on Sunday, Al-Saadi said, adding that he expected the fighting there to be completed in the coming hours.
Iraq’s Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that forces from the Rapid Response Division, another special forces unit, and the federal police were also attacking the Bab Al-Toub area on the edge of Mosul’s Old City.
“The battle is not easy... we are fighting an irregular enemy who hides among the citizens and uses tactics of booby-trapping, explosions and suicide bombers, and the operation is taking place with precision to preserve the lives of the citizens,” Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the JOC, told AFP.
Still, he said, Daesh resistance “has begun to weaken in a big way.”
Daesh seized Mosul in mid-2014 when it swept across areas north and west of Baghdad, taking control of swathes of territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
Backed by US-led airstrikes and other support, Iraqi forces have since retaken much of the territory they lost.
The operation to recapture Mosul — then the last Iraqi city under Daesh control — was launched in October.
After recapturing the east of the city, Iraqi forces last month set their sites on the west, where hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped.
Northwest of Mosul advancing Iraqi forces also took the infamous Badush prison this week, announcing on Saturday they had uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of hundreds of people executed by the militants.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary forces found “a large mass grave containing the remains of around 500 civilian prisoners in (Badush) prison who were executed by (Daesh) gangs,” the military said.
According to Human Rights Watch, Daesh gunmen executed up to 600 inmates from the prison in June 2014, forcing them to kneel along a nearby ravine and then shooting them with assault rifles.
The militants have committed widespread atrocities in areas under their control and claimed responsibility for a series of deadly attacks in western cities and elsewhere.