AFP / Mohammed SAWAF The fighting in Mosul
has forced more than 51,000 people to flee
their homes, according to the International
Organization for Migration
Iraqi forces worked to clear bombs and
flush out any remaining jihadists in retaken
areas of west Mosul Wednesday to set the
stage for an offensive against the Old City.
Supported by US-led air strikes, the forces
have made steady progress in their battle to
seize Iraq's second city from the Islamic
State group, announcing the recapture of
three more areas on Wednesday.
IS overran large areas of Iraq and Syria
in 2014, with its leader Abu Bakr
al-Baghdadi declaring a cross-border
"caliphate" in his last public appearance at
a Mosul mosque in July that year.
A US official Wednesday said Baghdadi was
no longer in Mosul, and that the hunt for
the enigmatic figure is being led by groups
outside the US-led anti-IS coalition,
including US special operations forces.
Iraqi forces launched the massive
operation to retake Mosul on October 17,
first recapturing its eastern side before
setting their sights on its smaller but more
densely populated west.
/ Iraqi forces launched the massive
operation to retake Mosul on October 17
The jihadists are under mounting pressure
from twin US-backed ground offensives
targeting Mosul and their other main
stronghold, Raqa in Syria.
They have fought back with suicide car
bombs, roadside bombs, snipers and
Iraqi forces have recaptured a series of
neighbourhoods in Mosul as well as the
provincial government headquarters and the
museum where IS militants infamously filmed
themselves destroying priceless artefacts.
The focus on Wednesday was on clearing
the newly retaken areas and defusing bombs
in booby-trapped houses, said Lieutenant
Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi of the
elite Rapid Response Division.
- 'Important step' -
Mohammed SAWAF Iraqi forces advance towards
the village of Badush, some 15 kilometres
northwest of Mosul, on March 7, 2017
The battle for the Old City may see some
of the toughest fighting in west Mosul.
"The liberation of the city centre is a
first and very important step for beginning
the liberation of the Old City," Mohammedawi
said, referring to an area near the Old City
that Iraqi forces have recaptured in recent
"The Old City is a very difficult area"
of narrow streets and closely spaced houses,
Hundreds of thousands of civilians are
believed to still be trapped under jihadist
rule in the Old City.
Iraq's Joint Operations Command (JOC)
said Wednesday the elite Counter-Terrorism
Service had recaptured the neighbourhoods of
Al-Mansur, Al-Shuhada al-Oula and Al-Shuhada
al-Thaniya in west Mosul.
Mohammed SAWAF Displaced civilians who have
fled the Iraqi advance on Mosul, wait
outside the village of Badush, on March 7,
It said soldiers and pro-government
militiamen had retaken Badush prison
northwest of Mosul where IS reportedly
killed up to 600 people execution-style and
also were said to have held more than 500
kidnapped women from the Yazidi minority.
The JOC did not specify whether anyone
was still being held at the prison when it
The fighting in the city's western
districts has forced more than 51,000 people
to flee their homes, says the International
Organization for Migration.
But 750,000 people are believed to have
remained in west Mosul under IS, whose
fighters have used civilians as human
shields to defend themselves from
"We couldn't go outside because of the IS
fighters," said Manhal, a 28-year-old
resident of Al-Danadan, a district now under
- Berms and barriers -
AFP / ARIS
MESSINIS The latest clashes bring Iraqi
security forces closer to West Mosul's
densely populated Old City
"Those who went out were taken hostage.
The fighting was very violent. Mortar rounds
fell on our roof and inside our yard," he
Federal police said anti-IS forces were
now setting up defences in recaptured areas
of Mosul as they eyed the next phase.
"Berms and barriers were set up to
protect (the) forces and they began search
operations in Al-Dawasa and Al-Danadan and
Al-Agaidat areas to find (IS) remnants to
prepare for the completion of offensive
operations," said Lieutenant General Raed
In neighbouring Syria, a US-backed
alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters has
been advancing on Raqa and on Monday they
reached the Euphrates River cutting the main
road to the partly IS-held city of Deir
Turkish troops and their Syrian rebel
allies meanwhile have pushed south from the
Turkish border and driven IS out of the
northern town of Al-Bab.
Russian-backed government troops have
swept eastwards from Syria's second city
Aleppo and seized a swathe of countryside
from the jihadists.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
said heavy Russian bombing struck IS
positions near the town of Al-Khafsah, where
regime forces retook a key water pumping
station the day before.
State television said more than 260
explosive devices had been defused at the
pumping station as the area was cleared for
work to start on restoring water to Aleppo
An AFP correspondent saw dozens of trucks
and cars full of suitcases and bedding
waiting on the road between Al-Khafsah and
the town of Manbij.
"The shelling began and we fled --
wherever we found somewhere safe, we'd
settle there," said Abu Hammoud, an elderly
man who left his home near the pumping
"We need help for the children. They're
sleeping in the open air. There's no food
here. Everyone can see us, but no one is