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Iraqi forces launch new push against IS to retake western Mosul

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-02-20 09:31

Iraqi forces launch new push against IS to retake western Mosul

Iraqi security forces on Sunday announced the commencement of a new phase of offensive to drive out the extremist militants of Islamic State (IS) group from its major stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said. [Photo/Agencies]

BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces on Sunday announced the commencement of a new phase of offensive to drive out the extremist militants of Islamic State (IS) group from its major stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.

The Iraqi army, federal police and some paramilitary units of the Hashd Shaabi have started their advance in the early morning from south and west of the Mosul.

The troops, so far, have managed to retake control of a total of 17 villages as they are marching closer to the fringes of the western side of the city, according to a statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command.

In south of Mosul, the federal police forces and Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) fought sporadic clashes with IS militants as the troops recaptured nine villages and the power station that provide electricity to the western side of Mosul.

The troops killed many extremist militants and destroyed 14 booby-trapped vehicles along with a vehicle carrying IS militants, the statement said, adding that the troops have seized a total of 60 square kilometers in south of the city during the day.

In west of Mosul, the army's 9th armored Division recaptured six more villages as they advanced to Attshana Hills, some 10 km west of Mosul, after sporadic clashes with IS militants, the statement said.

The troops killed many IS militants and destroyed two of their booby-trapped vehicles, a shovel truck and a vehicle carrying extremist militants, the statement said, adding that the troops have seized a total of 63 square kilometers in west of Mosul during the day.

Also in west of the city, a paramilitary unit of Hashd Shaabi teamed up with a Brigade of the 9th Division and advanced in vast open area in west of Mosul, recapturing the villages of Hamza and Gaisoum Hill, destroying three car bombs and a vehicle carrying heavy machine gun, according to the statement.

The troops' advance toward Mosul came after the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of an offensive to drive the extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River which bisects the city.

"We announce the start of a new phase in the operation (We Are Coming Nineveh) to liberate the western side of Mosul," Abadi said in a brief televised address, referring to the province of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital city.

"Our main task is to liberate the people before liberating the land," Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces, said in his address.

Late in January, Abadi declared the liberation of the eastern side of Mosul, or the left bank of Tigris, after more than 100 days of fighting against the extremist IS militants.

However, the western side of Mosul appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces with its narrow streets and heavy population of between 750,000 and 800,000 people, according to the United Nations (UN) estimates.

Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.

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