Iraqi troops seize main bridge, advance on mosque in battle for Mosul

Posted March 20, 2017

Khamis Khanjar, who has used his leverage to lobby the US administration and the Iraqi authorities to ensure the major campaign in Mosul minimizes civilian losses among its population, said at least 3,500 civilians have been killed since the push into the western side of the side last month.

USA and Iraqi officials are citing gains in the battle to retake western Mosul from Islamic State, saying pro-government troops have pushed farther into militant-held territory and cut off potential escape routes.

If Iraqi forces recapture Iron Bridge, they will control three of the five bridges spanning the Tigris River between eastern and western Mosul.

More than 68,000 people have fled west Mosul since February 25, streaming to camps around the city, according to the International Organization for Migration.

It was simply a boost to the stiff resistance of Islamic State fighters who have retreated into more crowded urban areas including Mosul's old city, making life hard for the Rapid Response force.

Iraqi federal police say they killed Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary on Tuesday (14 March) as they recaptured neighbourhoods under shelling and heavy machinegun fire.

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

CTS and the interior ministry's Rapid Response Division - a special forces unit operating with members of the federal police - are spearheading the advance in west Mosul. "We are taking out snipers hiding in the surrounding building, we are still pushing for the Iron Bridge", Brig.

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Since starting the offensive Iraqi forces have retaken eastern Mosul and about 30% of the west of the city.

"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 in the morning, using an Arab acronym for Islamic State. The decisive stage in the battle for Mosul started on October 17 previous year.

Soldiers from the 9th Armored Division scored an important victory on Saturday night when they cut the last road out of west Mosul, said Brett McGurk, the USA envoy to the worldwide anti-IS coalition.

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

Iraqi troops have effectively sealed off Mosul from the rest of the territory IS controls in Iraq and Syria.

Eastern Mosul recently fell to the anti-ISIS U.S. -backed offensive of almost 100,000 Iraqi government forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and Iran-backed Shiite militias, among other fighters.

Losing the city would be a huge blow to IS as it has served as the group's de facto capital since its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself - from the Grand Mosque - head of a caliphate covering Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014.