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

New Straits Times - - World -

MOSUL

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

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