Iraqi forces edge further into Mosul

Iraqi forces said they had seized ground inside Mosul’s Old City, a district expected to see some of the fiercest clashes in the battle for the militant stronghold. An operation began on February 19 to retake Mosul’s west, the last major Islamic State group urban bastion in the country, which includes the Old City. Iraqi forces have since retaken several neighbourhoods despite bad weather that has hampered air support.
But as they close in on the ancient central district they face particular difficulties. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to be trapped under IS rule in the warren of densely populated, narrow streets which restrict the use of large armoured vehicles. Federal police commander Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said yesterday that Iraqi forces backed by artillery and drones had advanced in the district. “Federal police and Rapid Response units imposed their complete control over the Al-Basha Mosque…and the Bab al-Saray market in the Old City,” he said. The two sites lie on the edge of the district in the heart of Mosul, next to the Tigris river that slices the city in two.
Further west, forces from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service have pushed into the Al-Rissala and Nablus quarters, senior commander Staff Lieutenant General Abdulghani al-Assadi said. “The situation is good,” he said. The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second city, would be a major setback for IS following months of losses in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Mosul has huge symbolic significance for the group: it was from the Old City’s Al-Nouri mosque that its secretive chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of his “caliphate” in July 2014. Iraqi forces backed by an international US-led coalition launched a vast, long-awaited operation in October to oust the militants from Mosul, completing their recapture of the east in January.

The sniper wars of Mosul

As an outnumbered and outgunned Islamic State mounts a fierce defence of their last stronghold in Iraq, snipers have been one of their most effective weapons. At times they can pin down advancing Iraqi forces for days.

Civilians caught in Mosul crossfire

Thousands of Mosul residents flee the raging battle, often under fire from Islamic State militants, as Iraqi forces fight to retake the city.

Iraq forces fight muddy street battle against IS in Mosul

ISIL fighters have launched several fierce counterattacks against Iraqi forces on the eastern outskirts of Mosul city, underscoring the intense battle ahead as government troops and their allies push into densely populated neighbourhoods. An ISIL suicide car bomber targeted Iraqi troops in the city’s eastern Qadisiya neighbourhood early on Saturday, setting off heavy fighting that involved mortar rounds, gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades. Iraqi officers told the AFP news agency that fighting was also under way in the adjoining Arbajiya area. “The fighting is intense this morning. We’re trying to fortify our positions in Arbajiya before continuing our attack into al-Bakr,” Colonel Muntadhar Salem, of the counterterrorism unit, said.

Brutal street battle for Mosul

 
Terrified civilians flee fighting, often under Islamic State militant fire, as Iraqi forces battle their way within range of the city’s government…Baghdad’s forces have overwhelming firepower and numbers in Mosul, but the Islamic State group has a vast city in which to launch ambushes, plant bombs and try to make the battle as slow and costly as possible. More than two months into the operation to retake the city, Iraqi forces have recaptured a large chunk of east Mosul, but IS still holds parts of it as well as all of its western side. In southeastern Mosul, a small explosion sounds behind the front line, sending a member of Iraq’s elite Rapid Response Division falling to the mud-covered ground, his legs wounded by shrapnel. Security forces members train assault rifles and machine guns skyward, unleashing a barrage of fire at the small white drone that apparently dropped the explosive device.

Iraqi forces advance deeper into Mosul

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces push further into the Islamic State-held western half of Mosul, capturing a damaged bridge which could link up their units on either side of the Tigris river.  

Thousands more Iraqis flee Mosul battles with livestock

 

Nearly 130,000 out of 1.5 million Iraqis have been displaced from Mosul and its surrounding areas owing to the fighting, the spokesman added at a news briefing. Approximately 50,000 children have been affected by the conflict. The UN refugee agency described the humanitarian situation as “dire” with food stockpiles dwindling and the price of staples spiralling, boreholes drying up or turning brackish from over-use and camps and emergency sites to the south and east reaching maximum capacity. In a report published last week, the agency said as many as one million people are estimated to be out of reach of humanitarian assistance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fighting the flames : Burning oil wells in Iraq

Six months after ISIL fighters torched oil wells in Qayyarah, Iraqi fire crews are still battling the flames. Like a scene from a Hollywood blockbuster, a vast and pervasive darkness hangs over Qayyarah, as toxic black smoke billows from the burning wells. Oil has been a key source of income for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, making Qayyarah an important strategic town. Its recapture last August by Iraqi forces was a significant gain in their advance towards Mosul.
Before fleeing, ISIL fighters used explosives to torch several oil wells, initially as a defensive measure to thwart coalition air strikes. But as the group began losing ground to Iraqi forces, they adopted a scorched-earth strategy, destroying as many oil wells as possible. The operation to extinguish the fires, now in its fifth month, is proving to be a difficult, dangerous and time-consuming task. Teams of firefighters, machine operators, mechanics, engineers and safety experts have come from across the country to join the effort- but regardless of when the flames are extinguished, the human and environmental costs will probably linger for years.
 

Animals starve in Mosul’s decimated zoo

A bear paces around a filthy cage next to a starving lion, the only two animals left in Mosul’s zoo — a once-peaceful animal park that, like much of the city, was destroyed by months of fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants.

What’s left of Mosul’s University

General view of the library of the University of Mosul, burned and destroyed during the battle with Islamic State militants. The University of Mosul is a public university located in Mosul. It is one of the largest educational and research centers in the Middle East, and the second largest in Iraq, behind the University of Baghdad. The University of Mosul was closed  in 2014 but reopened just after a few months with new buildings and courses. Over 8,000 books and 100,000 manuscripts in its library were believed to have been destroyed. The university was considered to have been used as a base by ISIS and was hit by Combined Joint Task Force airstrikes in March 2016. Iraqi forces recaptured it in January 2017.