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Iraqi army makes further advances towards Mosul

The battle for Mosul is the largest military operation in Iraq in a decade of turmoil unleashed by the 2003 US invasion
Soldiers from the Iraqi Special Forces in Mosul's Karkukli neighbourhood on 14 November 2016 (AFP)

Four weeks into the campaign to crush the Islamic State in Mosul, the Iraqi army continues to tighten its noose around Mosul.

Despite strong resistance from IS, the Iraqi army has taken control over several areas on the eastern side of Mosul, while army forces advance from the west, reported Aljazeera on Tuesday.

Several villages in the southwest of Mosul have reportedly been recaptured by the army overnight. 

Meanwhile, clashes between troops and IS militants in al-Sharqiya neighbourhood northeast of Mosul continue as the Iraqi army attempts to retake control of the area.

According to an army source, Iraqi troops have taken control of the Nayfa region southeast of Mosul city and near Nimrud, which was recaptured by the Iraqi army on Sunday.

On the other hand, IS-led news agency ‘Amaaq claimed that more than 25 Iraqi soldiers were killed in battles east of Nimrud and close to Mosul since Sunday.  

Villages taken by PMUs

To the west of Mosul, the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) said they had reached al-Rakak region south west of Tal Afar, a city and district in the Nineveh Province, where the militias are making an advance, reported Aljazeera.

“Armed groups among the Popular Mobilisations Units, supported by the Iraqi army, managed to retake several villages west of Mosul city, Anadolu news agency reported Jabar Hassan, a soldier in the Iraqi army, as saying.

At the same time, 20 IS militants were reportedly killed on Monday in an air strike over west Mosul, a source in the Iraqi Ministry of Defence said.

Despite these gains, in some districts, control has changed hands three or four times as the militants, using tunnels and exploiting the presence of civilians as cover, have launched night-time attacks and reversed military gains of the previous day.

The battle for Mosul, the biggest city held by the hardline militant group in Iraq and Syria, is the largest military operation in Iraq in a decade of turmoil unleashed by the 2003 US invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Iraq's Shia-led government, which has assembled a 100,000-strong coalition of troops, security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and mainly Shia militias, backed by US air power, says it will mark the end of IS in Iraq.

More than 54,000 people have been forced to flee their homes so far in the Mosul campaign.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said on Sunday tens of thousands of people "lack access to water, food, electricity and basic health services" in areas recaptured by the army in Mosul and surrounding towns and villages.

Ultimately, 700,000 people are likely to need shelter, food, water or medical support.

In the north of the country, Iraqi Kurdish fighters battling IS unlawfully destroyed Arab homes in scores of towns and villages in what may amount to a war crime, the US-based rights group Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.