Iraq: more civilians flee as fighting resumes in western Mosul

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By Alasdair Sandford  with Reuters
Iraq: more civilians flee as fighting resumes in western Mosul

The sight and sounds of combat were evident in western Mosul on Tuesday as heavy fighting resumed.

As Iraqi government forces continue their offensive to oust the self-proclaimed Islamic State from the northern city, military leaders say it’s only a matter of time till ISIL’s last major stand in the country is crushed.

The renewed fighting has focused on a bridge over the River Tigris. Troops advanced to within 100 metres but were slowed by sniper fire from gunmen positioned in high buildings, according to a military source quoted by Reuters.

US envoy Brett McGurk said on Sunday that the remaining western Mosul neighbourhoods held by ISIL were surrounded and the group had lost more than 60 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq.

Soldiers have been patrolling amid the destruction in central Mosul, now largely empty of civilians.

There has been a steady stream of people trudging out of western districts. Food and water had been scarce, they said – but they were pleased to have escaped ISIL’s clutches, saying Daesh had wanted to move them to other areas.

Often they have young children or old relatives in tow, carrying what they can.

Some have been taken by army trucks to processing areas but many have to wait. Tens of thousands have been pouring into camps outside Mosul.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still reported to be caught with the militants inside the city.

More than 200,000 have been displaced since the start of the campaign in October. Over 65,000 have fled their homes in the past few weeks, according to the International Organization for Migration and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA).