IS Mosul Commander Killed
Iraqi government forces killed the IS commander of Mosul’s Old City on Tuesday, as the battle for the militants’ last stronghold in Iraq focused on a bridge crossing the Tigris River.
As fighting intensified on Tuesday after the previous day’s heavy rains, civilians streamed out of western neighborhoods recaptured by the government, cold and hungry but relieved to be free of the militants’ grip, Reuters reported.
Snipers belonging to the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group were slowing the advance of Interior Ministry Rapid Response units on the Iron Bridge linking western and eastern Mosul but the elite forces were still inching forward, officers said.
Government forces also pushed into areas of western Mosul, IS’s last redoubt in the city that has been the de facto capital of their self-declared caliphate.
Federal police killed the military commander of the Old City, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary, during operations to clear Bab al-Tob District, a federal police officer said.
With many IS leaders having already retreated from Mosul, Ansary’s death comes as a blow to the militants, as they defend their shrinking area of control street-by-street and house-by-house.
Capturing 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 US-led airstrikes. The southernmost two have already been retaken.
The boom of shelling and heavy machinegun fire could be heard from the center of Mosul and helicopter gunships strafed the ground from above on Tuesday morning.
Amid the combat, a steady stream of refugees trudged out of the western districts, carrying suitcases, bottles of water and other possessions. Some pushed children and sick elderly relatives in handcarts and wheelbarrows.
Soldiers packed them into trucks on the Mosul-Baghdad Highway to be taken to processing areas. Most left in the dark early morning hours or after the army recaptured their neighborhoods. Food had been scarce, they said.
As many as 600,000 civilians are caught up with the militants inside Mosul, which Iraqi forces have effectively sealed off from the remaining territory that IS controls in Iraq and Syria. The Iraqi forces include the army, Special Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga and Shia militias.
More than 200,000 Mosul residents have been displaced since the start of the campaign in October. The Ministry of Immigration and Displacement said on Tuesday that in recent days, almost 13,000 displaced people from western Mosul had arrived seeking assistance and temporary accommodation each day.