Iraqi forces facing stiff resistance in western Mosul as civilians flee

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An Iraqi commander says special forces troops are progressing through western Mosul and encountering stiff resistance from entrenched ISIS fighters.

Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said Saturday that his troops are "moving very slowly" and that ISIS fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones.

The drones have caused relatively few deaths, but have inflicted dozens of light injuries that have disrupted the pace of ground operations.

Al-Saadi says he expects the pace to increase after Iraqi forces retake territory and infrastructure on Mosul's southwestern edge - which will allow them to shorten supply lines and link up with forces in the city's east.

Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul "fully liberated" in January after officially launching the operation to retake the city in October.

Elite Iraqi forces on Friday had entered a west Mosul neighbourhood for the first time since the start four months ago of an offensive to retake the city, a commander said.

Sami al-Aridhi, a lieutenant general in the Counter-Terrorism Service, said his men had retaken a military base and a village southwest of Mosul and entered a residential neighbourhood of the city.

“We have attacked and fully control Ghazlani base, we have also taken Tal al-Rayyan... and we're attacking Al-Maamun neighbourhood,” he told AFP.

Iraqi forces secured the east side of Mosul a month ago and on Sunday launched a fresh push on the west side of the Tigris River that divides the city.

They have since retaken several outlying villages and desert areas near the city. On Friday, commanders confirmed that government forces had full control of the airport that lies on the southern edge of the city.

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