Islamic State fighters have killed several civilians over collaboration with security troops, southwest of Kirkuk, a security source in the province. “The so-called head of the legislative court in al-Hawija district (55 KM southwest of Kirkuk) ordered hanging some civilians, who were detained by the militants few days ago over spying for the troops”, an anonymous source told BasNews on Thursday without giving details on the number of the victims. “The execution took place today at one of IS camps near Hawija”, the source said, adding that the bodies of the victims were not handed to their relatives. Hawija is a strategic town which has fallen into the hands of IS since mid-2014. Iraqi authorities postponed an operation to liberate the town last year, instead they moved onto central Mosul. The Iraqi government is expected to launch an offensive to retake IS-occupied areas in Kirkuk once it is done with eradicating IS from Mosul, the group’s biggest bastion in Iraq.
Ninety percent of displaced residents have returned back to the eastern side of Mosul after return of the main services back to the city, Nineveh province declared. “Basic services like electricity, drinking water and schools returned back to normal in the city. Other services will be provided when funds are available for reconstruction of freed regions”, he added “Liberated buildings in west of Mosul will come into service, in case funds are allocated by the federal government and international donors”, Habbou said. More than 400,000 refugees were displaced by battles between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants in Mosul since security operations launched in October, according to Iraqi government and aid bodies. More than 200.000 were displaced from the west since offensives launched in February to retake that area.
The service’s chief, Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat, said in a statement that his forces took over 62 targets assigned in western Mosul since the start of the security offensive. The troops killed hundreds of militants and destroyed 286 booby-trapped vehicles belonging to the group. Police forces evacuated 25.000 refugees from areas it had recaptured, Jawdat stated. Iraqi forces recaptured eastern Mosul in January after three months of fighting to retake the city that fell to Islamic State extremists in 2014. Police and supporting forces said recently they became closer to the Old City’s Nuri al-Kabir mosque, where IS supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the group’s rule in Iraq and Syria. They had earlier recaptured the city’s airport and biggest military base besides several other districts since the launch of the campaign. The army’s leadership said recently government troops became in control over 50 percent of the region.
Troops are set to back the Iraqi forces in an upcoming offensive to dislodge ISIS in Anbar’s western town of Qaem and areas around the military base. U.S.-backed Iraqi forces currently control over one third of western Mosul and are pushing deeper into the city, encountering fierce counter-attacks from the ultra-hardline group that has slowed progress. The assault on Mosul, the jihadists’ last major stronghold in Iraq, was launched by a 100,000-strong alliance of local forces on Oct. 17 that has become the biggest military operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The offensive to recapture west Mosul started three weeks ago.
Daesh (or ISIS) terrorists launched a counter-attack against advancing Iraqi forces in western Mosul during an overnight rain storm. Explosions and gun fire rang out across the city’s southwestern districts in the early hours of Thursday. The fighting eased in the late morning, although a Reuters correspondent saw an air strike and rebel mortar fire. The Takfiri militants are using suicide car bombers, snipers and booby traps to counter the offensive waged by the 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Kurdish Peshmarga fighters and Hashd al-Shaabi forces. Hundreds of women and children gathered in one abandoned bus station in the rain to receive food from the army and a local charity.
The number of civilians who have fled western Mosul since the start of security operations to retake the region from the Islamic State has soared further to 26000, the Iraqi government said. The Ministry of Migration and Displacement said Wednesday that the number is of those who fled the western section of Mosul since operations launched in February 19th. The United Nations and Iraqi refugee bodies have warned that battles in western Mosul could displace at least 250.000 out of 750.000 estimated to be trapped under IS control in western Mosul.
Iraqi forces seized a damaged Mosul bridge on Monday which could link up their units on either side of the Tigris river, as thousands of civilians fled the fighting for Islamic State’s remaining stronghold in the west of the city. U.S.-backed army and police units advanced through populated western districts, fighting tough street battles, and announced they had captured Mosul’s southernmost bridge. Once repaired, the bridge could help bring reinforcements and supplies from the eastern side, Major Ali Mohammed, Commander of First Regiment of Rapid Response Units, described the operation in al-Josaq: “We cleared al-Josaq district and we are close to the fourth bridge. The advance is ongoing, God willing. We killed snipers and you can see their bodies, this is the body of one of them”.
A weaponized drone guided by Islamic State militants killed five civilians in eastern Mosul, while five group members were arrested there on Wednesday. Anadolu Agency quoted Brig. Gen. Mohamed al-Bostani, from the army’s 16th division, saying that an advanced drone dropped two rockets on al-Rashidiya, northeast of Mosul, killing five civilians and wounding three others. He have said taht the situation in eastern Mosul was still “unstable” and in need for more intelligence and security effort. Iraqi officials have also voiced fears that dormant IS cells in those areas could pose a security threat.
Kurdistan’s army forces (Peshmerga) are not partaking in the Iraqi forces’ battle against Islamic State in western Mosul. JabbarYawar, secretary-general of the Peshmerga Ministry, told Bas News that the force maintains deployment at regions it had recaptured earlier from Islamic State militants. He added that no agreement had been made with the government in Baghdad regarding participation in western Mosul battles which, he said, are solely led by Iraqi forces contrariwise the operations in eastern Mosul which launched in October and ended with the retaking of the region late January.
The Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Sunday the formal start of a ground offensive on western Mosul, the federal police units are leading a northward charge on the Mosul districts that lie west of the Tigris River, aiming to capture the Mosul airport, located just south of the city, according to statements from the armed forces joint command. The airport is the first target of a ground offensive to capture the western side of the city. Commanders expect the battle in the west of Mosul to be more difficult than in the east because tanks and armored vehicles cannot pass through its narrow streets and alleyways but they have secured many southeastern districts along the Tigris, have superior weapons: Humvees, tanks, missiles, surveillance drones controlled by computers in a high-tech van, and support from U.S.-led coalition air strikes.