US envoy: Fight to retake Mosul in 'final stages'

Iraqi government forces have reportedly managed to wrest complete control over a strategic neighborhood in the western part of Mosul as they are engaged in joint operations with volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units to purge Daesh terrorists from the country's second largest city.

USA -backed Iraqi forces were moving to surround Mosul's Old City on Thursday, a week after launching a fresh push to drive Islamic State militants from areas they still hold.

"The risk to people fleeing Mosul is now very great, with people having to move being in grave danger".

Outnumbered, militants have retaliated with suicide vehicle bombs and snipers embedded among the hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in west Mosul.

Defence analyst and former general Jasim al-Bahadli said the strategy adopted by Iraqi commanders was to splinter the remaining fighters into smaller groups and attack them on multiple fronts to disrupt their command and control.

The operation would enable the Hashd Shaabi units to secure the border areas between Iraq and neighboring Syria and cut off the IS supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of IS self-declared caliphate.

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"By taking back all the districts surrounding the Old City, the militants will have no chance to receive any back-up or reinforcements", he said.

The civilians from al-Zanjili neighborhood in western Mosul were executed after they were caught attempting to escape, an Iraqi military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Spain's Efe news on Saturday. He said the momentum was with Iraq's elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) despite continued resistance from Islamic State fighters in the group's last bastion in Iraq.

Around half a million people are now displaced as a result of the offensive launched by the security forces in mid-October to retake Mosul, which was the jihadists' last major bastion in Iraq.

The Iraqi armed troops have been involved in the offensive aimed at liberation of Mosul since October 2016.

Nevertheless, hundreds of civilians have been killed by coalition air raids and shelling, as well as in ISIL's counterattacks.

  • Megan Austin