Iraq opens new Tigris bridge escape route for people fleeing Mosul

19 April, 2017, 01:41 | Author: Ora Austin
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Almost half a million civilians have fled Mosul since the start of the campaign to free the city from Islamic State, new figures show, as the battle becomes bogged down in street-to-street fighting.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

Iraqi forces with the backing of the US-led coalition - which has thousands of military personnel deployed in Iraq and carries out daily air strikes - began a major offensive to retake Mosul in October 2016.

In February, Iraqi ground forces - backed by a USA -led air coalition - began fresh operations aimed at ousting ISIL from western Mosul, the terrorist group's last stronghold in northern Iraq.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, countering the offensive with booby traps, suicide motorbike attacks, sniper and mortar fire, occasionally using shells filled with toxic gas.

"The sheer volume of civilians still fleeing Mosul city is staggering", said Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq.

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On Friday, the army dismantled makeshift bridges linking the two parts of Mosul due to heavy rain, forcing residents leaving Iraq's second-largest city to use small boats.

If Al-Qaeda from Iraq wants to proclaim the Islamic State of the khalifate immediately, ISIS wants to eliminate the occidental influence from the Middle East.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has opened a new camp in Iraq's Hammam al-Alil to house thousands of newly-displaced people fleeing the fighting in western Mosul. Nearly 330,000 people have fled Mosul since Iraq started an operation to expel Islamic State in October. "There are discussions and dialogue between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri", referring to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda.

ISIS split from al Qaeda in 2014 and the two groups have since waged an acrimonious battle for recruits, funding and the mantle of global extremism.

"It is unclear how exactly both groups may work together", Allawi said.

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