Iraqi forces take strategic bridge as battle for Mosul 'nears end'
19 March, 2017, 00:31 | Author: Ora Austin
Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
An air strike targeting one Islamic State position hit a building, engulfing nearby troops in smoke and dust.
In the latest figures released Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration said almost 100,000 Iraqis have fled western Mosul amid Iraqi battles against Daesh.
"We [are] moving on the old bridge. and then we will free that area and hopefully in a few days we'll liberate the west side of Mosul", a captain from the security forces said.
Heavy fighting was also reported around Mosul Museum by journalists and combatants.
Security forces are searching for militants trying to sneak out of the city among civilians and according to Human Rights Watch are holding more than 1,200 men and boys suspected of IS ties in "horrendous conditions" at sites south of Mosul.
Troops are now advancing towards the Mosul's grand mosque where the Islamic State declared a caliphate in 2014.
Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the success of the Mosul operation would drive hundreds of IS militants and sympathisers from Southeast Asia back to their home countries.
Securing the Iron Bridge would mean Iraqi forces hold three of the five bridges in Mosul that span the Tigris, all of which have been damaged by the militants and USA -led air strikes.
Since starting the offensive in October, Iraqi forces with US-led coalition and Iranian support via Shia jihadist organisations have retaken eastern Mosul and claim to have taken about 30 per cent of the west from the militants, who are outnumbered but fiercely defending their last stronghold in Iraq.
The southernmost two bridges have already been retaken by Iraqi forces.
On Sunday, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Islamic State fighters, Brett McGurk bluntly warned that any remaining jihadists in Mosul will be killed inside the besieged city. The decisive stage in the battle for Mosul started on October 17 a year ago.
The total number of Iraqis to have been displaced from western Mosul now stands at 111,000, according to Iraqi Minister of Displacement and Migration Jassim al-Jaff, who added that the ongoing displacement rate had reached between 7,000 and 8,000 people per day. Food had been scarce, they said.
"Unless there is a political process that restores confidence of Sunnis in the state.in a post-Daesh phase there may emerge more organizations of terrorists that are even more extreme than Daesh", he said.
"We are facing stiff resistance from Daesh fighters with snipers and mortars", an Iraqi official said.
Losing Mosul would be a major strike against Islamic State.
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