London, Mosul – Iraqi Special Forces advanced on Monday in Mosul district after fierce battles with ISIS militants near the Tigris river in Mosul as they get closer to bringing the whole city back under government control.
Clashes occurred in Shurta and Andalus districts where at least three ISIS suicide car bombs targeted Iraqi forces in Andalus. No immediate casualties were reported, while ISIS announced on social media it had carried out a “martyrdom operation” in the area.
Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said the militants, who seized Mosul in 2014 as they swept across much of northern Iraq, were fighting back hard.
“We’ve begun breaching (Shurta) but there was an attack a few moments ago. By the end of the day we’ll make some progress,” Reuters reported CTS spokesman Sabah al-Numan.
Iraqi forces, which have reached three of the five bridges, say they will soon fully control the eastern bank. They have already taken areas of the river bank further south. Once the east bank is recaptured, they can begin attacks on western Mosul.
Iraqi forces have seized most of the areas east of Mosul in the 3-month old campaign to oust the militants from the city.The Tigris bisects Mosul from north to south.
A Reuters cameraman in a southern district along the Tigris said snipers from elite interior ministry combat units were firing across the river at ISIS positions.
Numan said that the Iraqi Forces had recaptured about 90% of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and ISIS’ last major Iraqi stronghold. He told AFP that about 85%-90% of the eastern side of Mosul has been liberated.
The spokesman confirmed that over the coming few days, the whole axis will be liberated. He added that the forces liberated Nabi Younis neighborhood and the Iraqi flag has been hoisted over the shrine of Prophet Younis.
On Saturday, Iraqi Special Forces swept liberated the campus of Mosul University of any ISIS militant and took full control of the area.
United Nations said a further 32,000 Mosul residents had fled the city over two weeks, bringing the total number of people made homeless in the campaign to retake Mosul to 161,000.
A resident in western Mosul said over the phone that ISIS militants had stopped people living in the west from crossing the river to the east.
Another resident said a number of ISIS militants, including senior leaders in western Mosul, had left the city in the direction of Tal Afar on the Syrian border.
Mosul offensive, supported by U.S. coalition air force, involves 100,000-strong combined forces of Iraqi troops, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shi’ite militias.
ISIS has lost territory in its Mosul bastion; it has carried out bombing attacks in Baghdad, raids on police and army outposts elsewhere in the country.
Since the beginning of the year, attacks in Baghdad have killed dozens of people.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), New York-based organization, said on Monday that ISIS’ bombings, which have targeted crowded markets, amounted to “crimes against humanity”.
“(IS) has routinely carried out devastating attacks that appear designed to inflict maximum death and suffering on ordinary Iraqis,” HRW said in a statement; IS is another acronym used for ISIS.
HRW urged the Iraqi government to greater assist victims of militant attacks.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued urgent and immediate directives to help in relief operations for Mosul displaced citizens. Cabinet’s secretary general said that orders included security measures at all refugee camps. In addition, joint operation leadership will have to inform Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement of the number of civilians expected to leave the right side of the city to take suitable measures.