Iraqi forces gain control of strategic bridge straddling the Tigris

Thousands are fleeing the city as the fight for western Mosul escalates after Iraq launched a military operation last week to drive Daesh out of their last major stronghold in the country.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Soldiers help displaced Iraqis near Mosul, Iraq. February 26, 2017.

Iraqi forces have seized the southernmost bridge in Mosul city, the military said on Monday.

The government and its allies have escalated their fight against Daesh in the western neighbourhoods of the city as part of an offensive launched last week to drive the terrorist group from their last bastion in Iraq.

Civilians, including many children, have started to arrive in Tal al-Rummen, southwest of Mosul after escaping the ongoing battle for the western half of the city.

According to UN figures, about 750,000 civilians are thought to still be in western Mosul, about half of them children.

Daesh is accused of rounding up people from neighbouring areas and forcing them into Mosul to use them as human shields as the government and its US and Iranian allies advance into the west of Iraq's second biggest city. Iraqi forces liberated eastern Mosul from Daesh in January.

TRT World ’s Nicole Johnston has this report from Tal al-Rummen.

Why is it a key bridge?

The bridge the military secured on Monday is the southernmost of five spanning the Tigris River. It will link government forces battling to take the west of the city with the east, now under government control.

Army engineers plan to repair the bridge to allow troops and supplies to cross directly from the eastern side to the fighting underway in western Mosul.

Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) members help a wounded civilian from western Mosul, Iraq. February 26, 2017. (Reuters)

US and Iranian-backed government forces and their allies were reported to be about three kilometres from the old city centre and the main government buildings Sunday night and Monday morning.

The coalition forces have already entered western Mosul from the south and the west.

Daesh took control of Mosul in 2014. In December 2016, Baghdad launched a campaign to retake the city, and mobilised a 100,000-strong force of the national army, regional Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iranian-trained Shia Muslim paramilitary groups. 

TRTWorld and agencies