Exclusive: Infighting leaves IS in disarray in East Mosul

Exclusive: Infighting leaves IS in disarray in East Mosul
US ground troops are supporting a renewed push by Iraqi forces, amid firefights between the Islamic State group's Iraqi and foreign fighters, reports Gareth Browne from Mosul.
3 min read
11 January, 2017
The Al-Salam hospital has been badly damaged in the fighting [AFP]

The Islamic State group in eastern Mosul is reportedly on the verge of collapse following a renewed push by Iraqi forces.

Iraqi Federal Police claimed to have liberated the Filisteen and Domiz neighbourhoods on the eastern bank of the river Tigris with the support of the army's armoured 9th division.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Counter-Terrorism forces say they have liberated the Baladiyat neighbourhood. The latest gains put the eastern part of the city at around 80 percent re-captured after more than two years of Islamic State group occupation.

Advances in the south-east of the city have been supported by US ground forces, with the 101st Airborne having entered the city in recent weeks, and been caught up in fighting close to the Al-Salam hospital.

This marks the first time conventional US forces have been involved in combat operations inside the city during this offensive.

The gains come just a day after reports that firefights had broken out between the Islamic State's foreign and Iraqi fighters. The clashes were reported to have come after foreign fighters refused to allow Iraqi families to flee front lines in the east of the city to western Mosul.

Gareth Browne gave more details in a phone interview

Such clashes would be the first sign of a split within the group since the start of the Mosul offensive on October 17 last year.

The apparent collapse comes after a significant "refit" of Iraqi forces, which has seen greater involvement of the Iraqi Federal Police and Army in the assault on the city, in an effort to move away from a reliance on Iraqi Special Forces, which are understood to have taken significant casualties.

The advances have also bought coalition forces to the eastern banks of the Tigris river - which runs through the heart of the city - for the first time.

Kit and weaponry seized in areas re-captured from IS [AFP]

Following the push-back, neighbourhoods in the city's east re-taken from IS have already witnessed something of a miraculous return to life. In the Al-Zuhoor district, the central market is bustling, the main mosque attracts large numbers for daily prayers and the streets are packed with cars.

Though the security situation remains precarious, as shown by the significant presence of security services, the city is returning to life. Despite the fighting, more than one million people remain inside the city.

As preparations for the liberation of the western part of the city continue, Lieutenant-General Talib Saghati, one of the senior officers leading the operation, noted that international coalition forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga would be involved, in an attempt to reduce reliance on the ICTS - despite prior claims that the Peshmerga would not be involved in the city's liberation.

Gareth Browne is reporting from the front lines in the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group. Follow him on Twitter: @BrowneGareth

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