IRAQI FORCES BATTLING FOR THIRD BRIDGE
Govt holding more than 1,200 men and boys suspected of ties to jihadists in ‘horrendous conditions’, says Human Rights Watch
IRAQI troops battled Islamic State fighters for control of a bridge over the Tigris river here yesterday as civilians streamed out of recaptured western neighbourhoods, cold, wet and hungry but relieved to be free of the militants’ grip.
Progress by Interior Ministry Rapid Response units had been slowed by rain on Monday, but heavy fighting resumed yesterday, with the Iron Bridge the prize at stake. Government forces also pushed into areas of western Mosul, IS’s last redoubt in the city.
The troops had advanced to within 100m of the bridge but were slowed by sniper fire from gunmen positioned in high buildings, a Rapid Response media officer said.
“Our forces managed to resume advancing inside the old city centre after weather improved and succeeded in retaking Korneesh street which runs by the riverside. It’s key for our forces to secure the riverside and prevent IS militants from turning around our advancing forces.”
The bridge connects the Old City with the eastern side of the city. Capturing it would mean Iraqi forces control three of the five bridges here that span the Tigris.
Amid the combat, a steady stream of refugees trudged out of the western districts. Some pushed children and sick elderly relatives in handcarts and wheelbarrows.
Soldiers packed them into trucks on the Mosul-Baghdad highway to be taken to processing areas.
More than 200,000 city residents have been displaced since the start of the campaign in October, of which more than 65,000 fled their homes in the past two weeks alone.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said yesterday that the Interior Ministry was holding more than 1,200 men and boys suspected of ties to jihadists in “horrendous conditions” without charge at facilities south of here.
“The Iraqi Interior Ministry is holding at least 1,269 detainees, including boys as young as 13, without charge in horrendous conditions and with limited access to medical care at three makeshift prisons.
“At least four prisoners have died, in cases that appear to be linked to lack of proper medical care and poor conditions, and two prisoners’ legs have been amputated, apparently because of lack of treatment for treatable wounds.” Agencies