Iraqi PM reaches out to Mo­sul civil­ians as bat­tle nears end

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Iraqi forces con­tin­ued their steady ad­vance against the Is­lamic State group’s last strong­hold in Mo­sul on Tues­day as the coun­try’s prime min­is­ter reached out to the city’s civil­ian pop­u­la­tion.

The months-long bat­tle to free Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city of IS has shown that the civil­ians of Mo­sul re­ject the mil­i­tants, Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi was quoted as say­ing dur­ing a press con­fer­ence.

“We proved that the peo­ple of Mo­sul are with us and not with ter­ror­ism,” al-Abadi said, ac­cord­ing to Iraqi state-run me­dia. He added that he has given in­struc­tions to re­build and sta­bi­lize ar­eas of the city al­ready freed from the mil­i­tant group.

The re­marks came less than a week af­ter al-Abadi de­clared an end to the IS’ self-styled caliphate — even though the fight­ing still con­tin­ued in­side Mo­sul’s Old City.

Lt. Gen. Ab­del Ghani al-Asadi, of Iraq’s spe­cial forces, said on Tues­day that Iraqi forces are just 250 me­tres (yards) from the Ti­gris River, in the west­ern half of Mo­sul. The Ti­gris di­vides the city roughly into its west­ern and east­ern half, which was lib­er­ated from IS mil­i­tants back in Jan­uary.

IS mil­i­tants who re­main trapped in just a few hun­dred me­ters of ter­ri­tory in the Old City are now in a “fight to the death,” al-Asadi said, adding that IS fighters are in­creas­ingly re­sort­ing to sui­cide bomb­ings and that he ex­pects the fight­ing to get even heav­ier as they are pushed closer to the river.

Iraqi forces marked a sig­nif­i­cant vic­tory this week when the Rapid Re­sponse Divi­sion re­took Mo­sul’s main hos­pi­tal com­plex on the city’s west­ern side.

The build­ing that once held the city’s best med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties now sits dev­as­tated by the fight.

For weeks, a hand­ful of IS snipers perched in the main hos­pi­tal’s top floors held back hun­dreds of Iraqi forces.

Iraqi forces launched the op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul, the coun­try’s sec­ond largest city, in Oc­to­ber. IS over­ran Mo­sul in a mat­ter of days in 2014. At the height of the ex­trem­ists’ power, they held nearly a third of Iraq.

AP PHOTO

Iraqi chil­dren flee through the rub­ble as Iraqi forces con­tinue their ad­vance against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in the Old City of Mo­sul, Iraq, Tues­day.

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