Iraqi forces advance in Mosul's eastern neighbourhoods
Iraqi troops are making progress in advances into the Islamic State-held city of Mosul.
On Saturday Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi, a member of the Iraqi Special forces, told The Associated Press that at dawn on Saturday Iraqi troops moved into the Muharabeen and Ulama neighbourhoods of eastern Mosul having fully liberated the adjacent Tahrir neighbourhood.
Al-Aridi noted that cautiously advancing troops had faced stiff resistance from IS who have deployed snipers around the city, and used mortar rounds, explosive booby traps, and rocket-propelled grenades in order to stymie advances.
Thick black smoke was reported above the skies of the Muhabareen and Ulama neighbourhoods on Saturday as Iraqi troops continue to advance. Civilians continue to flee the areas, while a suicide bomb attack in the Tahrir neighbourhood wounded four troops, according to AP.
Elsewhere in Mosul, late on Friday a group of IS gunmen temporarily overran the village of Imam Gharbi, south of Mosul, with clashes resulting in the deaths of three policeman. Nine IS fighters were reportedly killed after coalition airstrikes were called in to counter the IS attack.
Meanwhile the Iran-backed Shia Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), or Hashd al-Sha’abi, have taken control of the Tal Afar military airfield located west of Mosul according to statements made by Jaafar al-Husseini, spokesman for the PMU’s Hezbollah Brigades.
The current assault on Mosul is being lead by the Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga Units and began on October 17. It is the largest military operation to have taken part in the country since US troops left in 2011.
Defeat of IS in Mosul would deal a strong blow to the extremist groups aspirations to establish a Caliphate stretching across areas of Iraq and Syria, however aid groups have expressed concern that during the battle civilians could become caught in the cross-fire.
International actors have warned the Iraqi state to keep the PMU away from the front lines due to concern over sectarian reprisals. The Shia units are leading an assault to drive IS from Tal Afar — a majority Shia town before it fell to IS in 2014 — which is also located along thoroughfares that link Mosul with IS’ de facto capital in Raqqa, located across the Syrian border.