Government forces in Iraq made new advances against terror group ISIS territory in eastern Mosul, fighting militants in areas near the Tigris river on Wednesday, military officials said. The progress is sought to sustain momentum of a renewed offensive against ISIS’ last major Iraqi stronghold.
Elite troops have pushed into a several neighborhoods in the east and northeast of the city in the past few days as they try to reach the Tigris River bisecting Mosul before launching an offensive on the west, all of which the militants still hold.
The rubble of a bridge blown up by ISIS in Mosul to block advancing Iraqi forces has become a lifeline for civilians as more and more of the northern city breaks loose from the grip of the ultra-hardline militants.
Men and women, children and the elderly scramble down the banks of the Khosr River, a tributary of the Tigris some 30 meters wide and a meter deep which counter-terrorism forces crossed last week in a nighttime raid.
The counter-terrorism service (CTS) were advancing into the northeastern Sadeeq and 7th Nissan districts, according to a senior commander on the ground.
A Reuters reporter in eastern Mosul saw CTS forces fighting ISIS militants in Sadeeq, firing towards Mosul University and into the adjacent Hadba area, which army units advancing from the north had breached a day earlier.
The forces are expected to meet somewhere in between.Tank shells, machinegun fire and air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition backing the Iraqis targeted ISIS gunmen holed up in a handful of buildings nearby. The militants detonated several car bombs and returned gunfire.
During their attack, Iraqi soldiers repeatedly diverted their attention to the sky to fire their machine guns at white commercial drones circling a few hundred meters in the air.
They were unable to down the aircraft, which ISIS uses for reconnaissance, to record its suicide attacks and to drop grenades behind its enemy’s lines.