Iraqi forces advance in IS-held Mosul, thousands flee

Indo Asian News Service

Mosul (Iraq), March 6 (IANS) Iraqi forces on Monday pushed further inside western Mosul and freed a new neighbourhood as they advanced towards the old city centre amid fierce clashes with Islamic State militants, the Iraqi military said.

Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) commandos liberated Sumoud neighbourhood in the southwestern part of the city after heavy clashes with the IS group, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command, was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Meanwhile, federal police and interior ministry special forces, known as Rapid Response, were engaged in street-to-street fighting against the IS in the neighbourhoods of Dandan and Dawassa, in the southern part of Mosul's old city centre.

The battles in the old neighbourhoods of downtown Mosul bring the troops closer to some main government buildings in Dawassa.

The recapture of Sumoud came a day after Yarallah announced a new push in the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris. The advance came after a two-day pause due to bad weather that had limited air support by Iraqi and international coalition aircraft.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of an offensive on February 19 to drive the IS out of Mosul.

The ongoing operations have forced up to 57,000 civilians to flee their homes, the Iraqi government has announced on Sunday.

"Teams affiliated to the Iraqi ministry of migration have received more than 57,000 civilians" during the past 15 days of the military operation in the western side of Mosul, according to a statement by Jassim Mohammed al-Jaf, Minister of Migration and Displaced.

The migration ministry provided emergency supplies, including food and medicine to displaced people, Jaf said, adding that the Iraqi ministry is also ready to receive some 100,000 people in its camps near Mosul.

The total number of displaced civilians reached 286,000 since the beginning of the major offensive to liberate Mosul on October 17, Jaf added.

A total of 206,520 individuals have been forced into displacement, a tracking system developed by the International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) showed.

According to the latest figures by IOM's Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) system, these individuals being displaced were from 34,420 families.

The United Nations estimated that about 750,000 to 800,000 people still live on the western side of Mosul, which could be a challenge to the Iraqi forces as the troops enter the city's narrow streets in the densely populated neighbourhoods.

Mosul, 400 km north of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling the group to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.