Iraqi troops push­ing on in Mo­sul

As fears grow of chem­i­cal weapons

7 Days in Dubai - - TECH TALK -

Iraqi troops moved yes­ter­day to re­take an­other neigh­bour­hood in the eastern sec­tor of the north­ern city of Mo­sul but were fac­ing stiff re­sis­tance from ISIS mil­i­tants, ac­cord­ing to a top Iraqi com­man­der.

A new anal­y­sis, mean­while, has found that there was high risk that ISIS would de­ploy chem­i­cal weapons against Mo­sul civil­ians or Iraqi troops fight­ing to re­take the city. Ac­cord­ing to IHS Markit, the ex­trem­ist group has used chem­i­cal weapons at least 71 times since its fighters swept across much of Iraq and Syria in 2014.

Reached by tele­phone in Mo­sul, Brig Gen Haider Fadel, of the Iraqi spe­cial forces, said that ISIS fighters were tar­get­ing his forces with rock­ets and mor­tars as they slowly ad­vanced in the densely pop­u­lated Zo­hour neigh­bour­hood.

“We are cau­tiously ad­vanc­ing. There are too many civil­ians still liv­ing there,” he said.

Iraqi troops be­gan their siege of Zo­hour on Sun­day as they for­ti­fied their po­si­tions in neigh­bour­hoods they had al­ready re­taken in eastern Mo­sul. Sui­cide bomb­ings, sniper fire and con­cerns over the safety of civil­ians – there are 1 mil­lion civil­ians still in Mo­sul – have com­bined to slow down progress in the cam­paign to lib­er­ate the city, which be­gan last month.

Mo­sul, cap­tured by ISIS in the sum­mer of 2014, is Iraq’s sec­ond-largest city and the last ma­jor ISIS ur­ban bas­tion in the coun­try.

Most gains in the cam­paign so far have been made by the spe­cial forces op­er­at­ing east of the Ti­gris River. Other forces, in­clud­ing the Kur­dish pesh­merga troops and vol­un­teer Sunni mili­ti­a­men, are ad­vanc­ing on the city from dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, and the US-led coali­tion is pro­vid­ing airstrikes and other sup­port.

An airstrike by the US-led coali­tion on Mon­day de­stroyed a ma­jor bridge over the Ti­gris in the south­ern part of the city, a move that ap­pears de­signed to limit ISIS’s ca­pac­ity to re­in­force or re­sup­ply fighters on the east bank of the Ti­gris, where most of the fight­ing is tak­ing place.

Ac­cord­ing to the anal­y­sis by IHS Markit, a London-based in­tel­li­gence an­a­lyst firm, Mo­sul served as a cen­tre for chem­i­cal weapons pro­duc­tion for ISIS.

How­ever, ex­perts be­lieve ISIS moved the ma­te­ri­als and ex­perts to Syria ahead of the Iraqi of­fen­sive to free the city. The anal­y­sis con­cluded that chlo­rine and mus­tard agents are the most likely chem­i­cals to be used by ISIS in the Mo­sul bat­tle.

ISIS used chem­i­cal weapons 52 times in Syria and 19 times in the Mo­sul area since 2014, IHS Markit also said.

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