Iraqi general says 30 percent of west Mosul recaptured from Islamic State

2027

Iraqi forces have retaken around 30 percent of west Mosul from Islamic State militants, a commander of the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said on Sunday, as soldiers pushed further into the jihadists’ territory.

Federal police and Rapid Response units said they had entered the Bab al-Tob area of the Old City, where the fight is expected to be toughest due to narrow alleyways through which armoured vehicles cannot pass.

The militants are vastly outnumbered and outgunned by Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition and are defending their last major stronghold in Iraq using suicide car bombs, snipers and mortars.

As many as 600,000 civilians are trapped with the militants inside the city which Iraqi forces have effectively sealed off from the remaining territory that Islamic State controls in Syria and Iraq.

CTS troops stormed the al-Jadida and al-Aghawat districts on Sunday, Major General Maan al-Saadi told reporters in Mosul, saying the militants were showing signs of weakness despite initial “fierce” resistance.
“The enemy has lost its fighting power and its resolve has weakened. It has begun to lose command and control,” he said, adding that around 17 out of 40 western districts had been retaken.

Saadi said he expected it would take less time to recapture the western half of the city than the east, which was cleared in January after 100 days of fighting.

More than 200,000 Mosul residents have been displaced since the start of the campaign in October, of which more than 65,000 fled their homes in the past two weeks alone, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

In the Mansour district, from which Islamic State was driven several days ago, residents collected aid brought by volunteers from east Mosul while helicopters circled overhead, firing heavy machine guns and missiles at targets in the city.

MASS GRAVE UNEARTHED

It is three weeks since Iraqi forces launched a campaign to recapture districts west of the Tigris River that bisects Mosul.

A federal police spokesman said his forces along with the Rapid Response division, an elite Interior Ministry unit, were now around 300 metres (yards) from the Old Bridge — one of five that connected west Mosul to east. The southernmost two are already controlled by Iraqi forces.

Losing Mosul would be a major blow to Islamic State. It is by far the largest city Islamic State has held since the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria from a mosque in Mosul in the summer of 2014.

The group is expected to pose a continuing threat, reverting to insurgent tactics such as bombings.

As an array of forces dismantle Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate across Iraq and Syria, more evidence is emerging of the war crimes committed by the Sunni Islamist militants, who targeted Shi’ite Muslims and religious minorities as well as opponents from their own sect.

A Shi’ite paramilitary spokesman said on Sunday a mass grave had been found containing the remains of “hundreds” of mainly Shi’ite inmates who were killed by Islamic State overran the Badush prison in June 2014.

The Iraqi army and a Shi’ite paramilitary group called the Abbas Division recaptured the Badush area in recent days as they cut remaining Islamic State supply lines to Mosul, completing the encirclement of the city.

The remains of hundreds of mainly Shi’ite inmates killed by Islamic State militants when they overran a prison in northern Iraq more than two years ago have been unearthed by forces retaking the area from the group, a spokesman said.

An Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary group made the discovery after driving the militants from the Badush area where the prison is located, as part of a wider U.S.-backed campaign to dislodge Islamic State from the city of Mosul.

As an array of forces dismantle Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate across Iraq and Syria, more evidence is emerging of the war crimes committed by the Sunni Islamist militants, who targeted Shi’ite Muslims and religious minorities as well as opponents from their own sect.
“Initial checks of part of the mass grave revealed remains with prison uniforms and lined up in a way that indicates they were shot dead in groups,” said Karim Nouri, spokesman for the Hashid Shaabi, a state-run umbrella for Shi’ite paramilitary groups.

One of those groups — the Abbas Division — is fighting alongside the regular Iraqi army, which in recent days jointly completed the encirclement of Mosul, about 10 km (6 miles) southeast of Badush.

The militants used the prison to hold their own captives including thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority, but blew it up some time before Iraqi forces drew near.

Human Rights Watch said in a report that as many as 600 people were killed in the Badush prison massacre, which took place on the same day that Islamic State militants captured Mosul in June 2014.

The militants corralled the inmates, who had been serving sentences for a range of crimes — from murder and assaults to nonviolent offences — onto trucks and drove them to an isolated stretch of desert about 2 km (1 miles) from the prison, HRW said.

There, they separated a few Sunni and Christian inmates from the rest, who were overwhelmingly Shi’ite, before forcing them to form one long line along the edge of a ravine and machine-gunning them down.

The report was based on the testimony of more than a dozen men who survived by playing dead or because they were shielded by the bodies of other prisoners who fell on top of them.
“We are waiting for forensic teams and human rights officials to begin unearthing the grave to uncover the whole story of how the ruthless criminal Daesh (Islamic State) killed them in cold blood only because they were from a certain sect,” Nouri said.