An Iraqi commander says his troops are inside 800 meters (900 yards) of the principal government complex in the northern city of Mosul, the capture of which would mark a symbolic victory against the Islamic State group.
Maj. Gen Thamir al-Hussaini, of Iraq's elite fast response units, stated his forces had been advancing along the Tigris River immediately after retaking one of the city's five broken bridges. He said the capture of the bridge could shorten supply lines and allow civilians in western Mosul, where heavy fighting is underway, to flee to the government-controlled eastern half of the city.
"In the coming day we will clear the government buildings," he told reporters in Abu Saif, a village outdoors Mosul.
Inside the city, residents described Iraqi forces' hold on the region as substantially a lot more tenuous.
Inside a few hundred meters (yards) of the bridge, makeshift roadblocks set up to prevent vehicle bombs have been nonetheless in location, preventing civilian and military website traffic.
Muhammad Salah, a resident of a lately retaken neighborhood nearby stated the bridge and the key road successfully mark the existing front-line in the fight. He pointed to plumes of black smoke visible a couple of blocks away, saying they had been from cars along the principal road set alight by the militants to conceal their positions from aircraft flying overhead.
"None of the primary road has been liberated however," he mentioned, as black ash drifted down on his garden like a light snow.
Cpl. Hussein Ishaq, of the speedy response units, described the battle for the neighborhood as "uncomplicated," saying IS defenses were light and that his forces cleared the district in a single day.
Muhammad Abbas, a member of the militarized Federal Police, pointed to a street corner next to a garden full of fruit trees. "There had been two IS fighters there, 1 with a suicide belt," he stated. "A coalition plane saw them and killed them with an airstrike."
The munition left a deep hole in the asphalt. The street was still littered with leaves knocked off the trees, barely recognizable physique components and shreds of clothes.
Residents stated Iraqi forces only pushed into the location after days of heavy airstrikes and artillery fire.
"Honestly it was a really fierce fight," mentioned Salah.
The U.N. migration agency meanwhile reported a surge in the number of fleeing civilians, saying over ten,000 men, ladies and children have been displaced since the operation to retake western Mosul began on Feb. 19. The International Organization for Migration cited Iraqi government figures.
The IOM, citing accounts from those who have fled, stated the streets are littered with the bodies of slain IS militants as nicely as civilians. It said the militants have raided the shops, warehouses and residences of these who have fled as they stockpile supplies.
Households leaving with kids are reportedly taping their mouths shut with duct tape, or giving them sleeping tablets or Valium in order to avoid them from alerting the militants.
"We stayed out of fear of ISIL," mentioned Umm Mahmoud, 50, who arrived at the government-controlled town of Qayara on Sunday, making use of an alternative acronym for IS. "Men and women escaping had been caught. Their males had been killed and the ladies were left tied up out in the cold as punishment," she said.
Extra than 220,000 folks have fled given that U.S.-backed Iraqi forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul in October, according to the IOM. Of those, more than 175,000 stay displaced.
Mosul is Iraq's second biggest city, and its western half is the last substantial urban region held by IS in the nation.
Related Press writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.
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