Iraqis fight ISIS to Mosul bridge
BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces reached one of Mosul’s five destroyed bridges Monday as they pushed deeper into the western half of Iraq’s second-largest city, driving Islamic State militants back with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes.
Maj. Gen. Thamir al-Hussaini said the militarized Federal Police advanced in the face of snipers, anti-tank missiles and suicide car bombs, describing “fierce” clashes in which Iraqi forces suffered casualties, without providing exact numbers.
Just a few miles from the front, wounded troops streamed into field hospitals, many of them suffering from shrapnel wounds. One soldier had lost the lower part of his leg in an explosion.
Front-line medics at one field hospital said they had received more than 20 casualties by midday. The medics spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations as Iraq’s military does not release casualty information.
U. S.- led airstrikes disabled all of Mosul’s bridges spanning the Tigris River last year in a bid to isolate the militants in the western half of the city. Iraq declared eastern Mosul “fully liberated” last month, but the militants have carried out attacks there since then.
Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV aired live footage from the western Gawsaq neighborhood, showing Iraqi troops in armored vehicles and Humvees rolling through dusty streets as gunfire rattled. Thick, black smoke could be seen billowing after airstrikes.
Iraqi forces took Mosul’s international airport and a sprawling military base next to it last week before pushing into Mamun, the first neighborhood in the western half of the city after the airport.
Mosul’s western half is Iraq’s last significant urban area held by the Islamic State extremist group.
In October, Iraq launched the operation to retake Mosul, which fell to the Islamic State in the summer of 2014, along with large swaths of northern and western Iraq.
Iraqi forces advance during fighting against Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq, on Monday. A senior Iraqi police commander said Monday that troops have taken control of the western side of a key bridge in Mosul amid intense clashes with the Islamic State group.