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Iraqi forces step up attacks in push towards centre of Mosul

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By Seamus Kearney
Iraqi forces step up attacks in push towards centre of Mosul

Mosul in Iraq is seeing the most intensive fighting yet since the offensive to retake the city from ISIL militants began more than two weeks ago.

Iraqi special forces have stepped up their attacks as they push closer towards the centre of the city, but the militants are also hitting back hard.

Civilian casualties from the firefights and airstrikes are mounting.

Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi of the Iraqi Special Forces said: “The battles are ongoing. The enemy is using snipers, car bombs and directed missiles.

“God willing, we will return fire and will liberate the neighbourhood (of al-Zahra) soon.”

Images uploaded to a website affiliated with ISIL purports to show militants returning fire in the east of Mosul.

The Iraqi soldiers, backed by US-led airstrikes, say they recaptured half a dozen districts from ISIL in fighting on Friday.

Civilians are doing their best to hide or escape, amid reports ISIL is deliberately using some as human shields.

The lucky ones make it to a refugee camp set up near Mosul and some are even reunited with missing family.

One man reunited with family through a wire fence said: “It’s my family, my friends. What can I say? I’m lost for words.

“I last saw them two years ago. They left when everything began, but unfortunately we remained. And we lived through a nightmare.”

The UN says ISIL has killed hundreds of people including deserters and ex-government workers and is holding many more hostage.

It is also accused of forcing families to hand over boys as young as nine, apparently in a desperate recruitment drive.