Iraq: Third of eastern Mosul ‘liberated’

Hundreds of Iraqis line up for food in eastern neighborhoods of Mosul recently retaken from ISIS

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Iraqi forces have dislodged ISIS from one third of the eastern side of Mosul, an interior ministry spokesman said on Tuesday, four weeks into the US-backed campaign to take back the city.

The Tigris river divides Mosul into eastern and western sides. The built-up area in the eastern side is slightly bigger than the western side where the old city is located.

“More than a third of this (eastern) side has been liberated,” the spokesman, Brigadier-General Saad Maan, told a news conference at the Qayyara military base, the main hub for the forces trying to end ISIS’s two-year rule of Mosul.

So far, 955 insurgents have been killed and 108 captured on the southern frontlines of the city alone, Maan said. He did not give a toll for the campaign overall either for security forces, civilians or ISIS fighters.

With air and ground support from a US-led coalition, Iraqi government forces are trying to consolidate gains made in the east of the city, which they entered at the end of October.

They are yet to enter the northern or southern neighborhoods of Mosul, where more than 1 million people are thought to be living.

More than 54,000 people have been displaced because of the fighting from villages and towns around the city to government-held areas, according to UN estimates.

The figure does not include the tens of thousands of people rounded up in villages around Mosul and forced to accompany ISIS fighters to cover their retreat towards the city.

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Hundreds line up for food

Hundreds of Iraqi civilians lined up on Tuesday for food in eastern neighborhoods of Mosul recently retaken from ISIS, as rations ran low, an Iraqi officer said.

Maj. Salam al-Obeidi says some 700 residents gathered in three areas of the Zahra and Qadisiya neighborhoods, the latter of which was the scene of a fierce IS counterattack a day earlier.

“This is a problem for us because the food we have is not enough for them and we’re waiting for more food to be sent from the government,” al-Obeidi said. “Now the Iraqi soldier is giving his food to the civilians.”

Iraq launched a major offensive last month to drive ISIS out of the northern city, the country’s second largest, which is still home to more than 1 million civilians.

Special forces have captured a foothold in the city’s east, and have been advancing slowly over the past week to avoid casualties and civilian deaths as ISIS fighters emerge to attack from the dense, urban landscape, often with armor-plated suicide car bombs.

The militants struck back against special forces in Qadisiya a day earlier, Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi said. Two dozen men wearing suicide vests charged the front lines, setting off a three-hour battle that killed 20 militants and severely wounded a special forces soldier.

The Iraqi armed forces do not release official casualty figures, but field medics have noted dozens of killed and wounded since the operation to liberate the city began on Oct. 17.

At a news conference outside Mosul, Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-led forces supporting the operation, said airstrikes had so far destroyed 59 suicide car bombs and over 80 tunnels.

“We will continue to strike the enemy for as long as it takes for the Iraqi flag to be raised over Mosul and every other corner of this country,” he said, adding that the coalition had conducted over 4,000 strikes with air power and artillery since the campaign began.

The United Nations meanwhile said smoke from oil wells and a chemical plant torched by ISIS near Mosul has forced over 1,500 people to seek medical treatment for respiratory problems.

(With Reuters, AP)

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