Ca­su­al­ties mount as Iraqi troops ad­vance in Mo­sul

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

MO­SUL, IRAQ — “We have wounded!” the men shouted from the road­side. Two sol­diers, bleed­ing, were be­ing ban­daged be­side their smok­ing ve­hi­cle on the side of a dusty dirt road.

Iraqi spe­cial forces Ma­jor Saif Ali yelled to his driver to stop and leaped out. “Put one in­side and the other on top!” he called to his men. One was put in Ali’s seat, the other laid on the ve­hi­cle’s hood. “Go!” he shouted, crouch­ing on the hood next to the wounded man. His driver blared the horn and the gun­ner shot into the air try­ing to clear a way through a sea of flee­ing civil­ians and live­stock.

As Iraqi forces push deeper into western Mo­sul, the as­sault is bring­ing a surge of ca­su­al­ties — at least 30 Iraqi se­cu­rity forces and more than 200 civil­ians killed or wounded in the last three days. Iraq’s mil­i­tary does not re­lease of­fi­cial ca­su­alty re­ports, but medics at front-line clin­ics pro­vided fig­ures on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The sud­den spike in ca­su­alty num­bers mir­rors what played out in Mo­sul’s east as the fight moved from ru­ral vil­lages to dense ur­ban ar­eas. Front-line medic sta­tions on Mo­sul’s west are now over­flow­ing. At one clinic Sun­day, the dead had to be moved to the ground to free up beds as more in­jured ar­rived.

The sol­diers that Ali picked up had been wounded when a mor­tar — fired from dis­tricts held by the Is­lamic State group — hit them along a route used by the thou­sands of civil­ians flee­ing Mo­sul on foot af­ter Iraqi forces first punched into Ma­mun neigh­bour­hood on Fri­day.

Ali had been on his way back to base af­ter a quick visit to the edge of Ma­mun neigh­bour­hood.

Now he was grip­ping the grate of his Humvee, us­ing his own weight to keep the wounded man from slid­ing off the hood.

In the front pas­sen­ger seat, the other sol­dier — with a head wound — sat with his eyes wide open and glassy. Ev­ery­one in­side the ve­hi­cle rode in al­most com­plete si­lence as Ali and his gun­ner shouted di­rec­tions to the driver and yelled for civil­ians to move out of the way.

Blood slowly soaked through the black shirt of the man sit­ting in Ali’s seat. The near­est clinic was five kilo­me­tres away — down bumpy dirt roads, crowded with peo­ple. Af­ter a few mo­ments the sol­dier went com­pletely limp, his body sway­ing slackly with each bump the Humvee hit. He was dead.

The whiz of mor­tars on the edge of Ma­mun neigh­bour­hood re­peat­edly sent fam­i­lies scat­ter­ing for cover as they tried to flee Mo­sul’s city lim­its. The route civil­ians are us­ing to flee Mo­sul’s west on foot is still within mor­tar range of IS fight­ers in­side the city and largely out in the open, leav­ing peo­ple more vul­ner­a­ble than those who fled the city’s eastern side.

KHALID MO­HAMMED, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Iraqis flee their homes due to fight­ing be­tween Iraqi se­cu­rity forces and Is­lamic State mil­i­tants on the western side of Mo­sul, Iraq, Sun­day.

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