Iraqi forces gain foothold in northwest Mosul

In a new push from the north of Mosul, Iraqi forces aim to complete the encirclement of Daesh-held Old City centre.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Members of Iraqi Army fire mortar shells during clashes with Daesh, in north west of Mosul, Iraq, May 5, 2017.

Iraqi forces pushed further into Mosul from the north on the second day of a new push to speed up the nearly seven-month attempt to dislodge Daesh from the city, military commanders said on Friday.

An army statement said the Second Musherfa district, as well as the Church and Mikhail's Monastery area, had been retaken.

The US-backed Iraqi offensive aims to open escape routes for the hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped behind Daesh lines and, in turn, help troops progress.

Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for the joint operations command, said Iraqi forces rescued 1,000 families on Thursday.

Displaced Iraqis flee as members of Iraqi Army clash with Daesh, in north west of Mosul, Iraq, May 5, 2017. (Reuters)

​US air support has proved vital for spotting suicide car bombs and for avoiding targets where civilians are trapped.

Brigadier General Rasool said the militants "didn't have time to make barriers and the advance since yesterday has been good".

According to a footage taken by a drone operated by the Iraqi 9th Armoured Division over the northwestern suburb of Musherfa, the Daesh militants had scant defences there, unlike in other parts of Mosul where streets are blocked by anti-tank barriers and vehicles.

US Army Lieutenant Colonel James Browning, the partnered adviser to the 9th, said the militants had tried to keep some streets open in order to use suicide car bombs.

Daesh was probably expecting the attack, he said, "but they can't defend everywhere".

Only two months ago, the militants would be firing 200 rockets or mortars at Iraqi forces in Mosul on any given day, Browning said, but in the past two days, it dropped to about 30.

"When you open up more fronts it becomes harder for (Daesh) to be able to defend. There are certainly some challenges. There are defences in place," he said.

New push on Mosul

Members of the Iraqi Army clash with Daesh at a frontline in north west of Mosul, Iraq, May 5, 2017. (Reuters)

The 9th Armoured Division and the Interior Ministry's Rapid Response units are aiming for the Tigris river bank to complete their encirclement of the Daesh-held Old City centre.

Their progression should help the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and Interior Ministry Federal Police troops who are advancing from the south.

Daesh is now besieged in the northwestern corner of Mosul which includes the historic Old City, the medieval Grand al Nuri Mosque, and its landmark leaning minaret where their black flag has been flying since June 2014.

Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a so-called "caliphate" spanning parts of Syria and vast swathes of Iraqi territory from the pulpit of the Grand al Nuri Mosque nearly three years ago.

The Iraqi army said on April 30 that it aimed to complete the battle for Mosul, the largest city to have fallen under Daesh control, in both Iraq and Syria, this month.

However, Daesh still controls parts of Syria and large amounts of Iraqi territory near the Syrian border.

TRTWorld, Reuters