Iraqi security forces advanced Monday towards a compound of Daesh-held government buildings and a bridgehead, on the second day of a renewed push in west Mosul, officers said.
The operation to retake west Mosul, the largest urban population center still in the hands of the Daesh terrorist group, began on February 19, but had slowed amid several days of bad weather until a renewed drive began on Sunday.
The interior ministry's elite Rapid Response forces "are advancing in the Al-Dawasa and Al-Dindan areas to liberate the government buildings and secure a route for families to leave," Lieutenant Colonel Abdulamir Mohammedawi told AFP.
The fighting in west Mosul has sparked an exodus from that side of the city, pushing more than 45,000 people to flee, according to the International Organization for Migration.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces captured Mosul's al-Hurriya bridge, which leads to the Deash-held old city center from the south, a military media officer told Reuters. The al-Hurriya bridge is the second to be secured by the Iraqi forces in the city, after securing one located further south, in the offensive that started on the western part of Mosul on Feb. 19. "We control the western end of the bridge," said a senior media officer with Rapid Response, the elite unit of the interior ministry leading the charge through the districts alongside the Tigris River.
All of Mosul's five bridges over the Tigris have been destroyed but their capture and repair would help the offensive against the militants, who have controlled the northern Iraqi city since 2014.
Mosul is divided by the Tigris River, and while the series of bridges crossing it have either been damaged or destroyed, they would provide a link between the Iraqi government-held east and IS-held west Mosul if they can be repaired or otherwise bridged.
Iraqi forces recaptured the western side of the fourth bridge, which is south of Al-Hurriyah, at the end of last month.
Western Mosul contains the old city center, with its ancient souks, the Grand Mosque and most government administrative buildings. It was from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque that Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled "caliphate" over parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014. The city, Iraq's second biggest, is the largest urban center captured by Daesh in both countries and its de facto capital in Iraq. Raqqa is its capital in Syria. Daesh was thought to have up to 6,000 militants in Mosul when the government's offensive started in mid-October. Of those, more than 1,000 have been killed, according to Iraqi estimates. The westward road that links the city to Syria was cut in November by the Shiite paramilitary known as the Hashd al-Shaabi. The militants are in charge of the road that links Mosul to Tal Afar, a town they control 60 km (40 miles) to the west.
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