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#MosulOp: Iraqi forces push deeper into IS-held Mosul centre Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

#MosulOp: Iraqi forces push deeper into IS-held Mosul centre

Civilians come out of their homes carrying white flags seeking protection behind army lines [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 November, 2016

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Iraqi troops continued their advance toward Mosul city centre, pushing back IS militants and capturing more neighbourhoods towards the jihadis' defences.

Iraqi troops advanced towards Mosul city centre on Sunday, a top Iraq commander said, despite heavy resistance from Islamic State group militants, sniper fire and suicide bombings.

Iraqi special forces clashed with IS in eastern Mosul before capturing two neighbourhoods located less than six kilometres [3.7 miles] away from the city centre.

"Iraq's counter-terrorism forces captured the neighbourhoods of al-Moharibain and al-Amala after engaging in fierce fighting with Daesh," an officer in the Iraqi ground forces told The New Arab, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The troops also laid siege to the al-Zohour neighbourhood. Their arrival on the neighbourhood's fringes prompted hundreds of civilians to come out of their homes carrying white flags seeking protection behind army lines.

"The biggest hindrance to us is the civilians," Major General Sami al-Aridi told AP. "We are soldiers who are not trained to carry out humanitarian tasks."

Special forces were searching homes in areas retaken from IS, looking for militants and vehicles rigged to be used in suicide bombings.

Another Iraqi army commander, Brigadier General Haidar Fadel, said a suicide car bomber attempted to drive his vehicle toward troops in the city's Tahrir neighbourhood, but was shot dead and his explosives-laden car detonated at a safe distance. 

However, Fadel said the car exploded close to a house, causing it to cave in. Four civilians were killed and four others were wounded.

The Iraqi military began the campaign one month ago to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city and the last major urban centre in the country still held by the militants. 

The campaign has been slow, with IS putting up stiff resistance. 

Most gains so far have been made by the special forces operating in the section of Mosul east of the Tigris river.

IS captured Mosul in the summer of 2014 as part of a blitz that placed nearly a third of Iraq under the militants' control. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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