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Iraq troops battle IS in Mosul, UN says dozens executed

  • Published at 10:23 pm November 11th, 2016
Iraq troops battle IS in Mosul, UN says dozens executed

Elite Iraqi troops battled the Islamic State group in the streets of Mosul on Friday, as the UN reported IS jihadists had executed dozens of people inside the city for alleged "treason". With IS also on the defensive in neighbouring Syria, US-backed forces pressed an advance on jihadist bastion Raqa after a sandstorm eased.

The high winds in the desert which separates the Syrian Kurdish-Arab militia alliance from the jihadists' stronghold in the Euphrates Valley had slowed their advance on Thursday as visibility levels plummeted.

Iraqi forces too had regrouped after meeting stronger than expected resistance from IS fighters on the east bank of the Tigris River which runs through Mosul after thrusting into the built-up area last week.

Commanders of Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said that troops were advancing on two eastern neighbourhoods of the city.

In a house near the front line, Staff Lieutenant Colonel Muntadhar Salem clutched a radio in one hand and a tablet in the other with a map showing several rows of buildings recaptured by CTS. As the troops waited for orders to push forward, incoming mortar rounds shook the pink curtains on the windows of the house. Inside Mosul itself, IS fighters reportedly shot dead more than 60 people this week and hung some of their bodies from poles after claiming they had collaborated with Iraqi troops, the UN human rights office said Friday. "On Tuesday, IS reportedly shot and killed 40 civilians in Mosul city after accusing them of 'treason and collaboration'" with the ISF, rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement released in Geneva. And on Wednesday, IS slaughtered another 20 people at the Ghabat Military Base in northern Mosul after accusing them of "leaking information," the UN statement said. The battle to retake Mosul is now in its fourth week, and while troops have entered the built-up area, there are weeks, if not months, of fighting still to go. "Our forces have begun the attack on Arbajiyah. The clashes are ongoing," Salem said, referring to an area in the east of the city.

'Within firing range'

The latest fighting came "after a few days of quiet," he said.

Another CTS officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ali Hussein Fadhel, said that the first row of buildings in Arbajiyah had been seized.

"We are within firing range of Karkukli but the full attack has not yet started," he said, referring to another eastern neighbourhood.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake Mosul on October 17, with federal and Kurdish regional forces closing in on the city from three sides.

Pro-government Shiite paramilitaries later began an advance on the town of Tal Afar, which commands the city's western approaches, with the goal of cutting the jihadists off from territory they control in neighbouring Syria. The advance up the Tigris Valley from the south has been slowest. The troops on that front had the farthest to cover, with a string of jihadist-held towns in their path. On Thursday, the battle neared the remains of ancient Nimrud, some 30km south of Mosul, raising fears for the famed heritage site already ravaged by jihadist bombs and sledgehammers.
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