Iraqi forces capture Mosul bridge, closing in on government buildings

All of Mosul’s five bridges over the Tigris River have been destroyed but the capture of their ruins facilitates the movement of forces progressing alongside the river, which cuts the city in two.
An aerial view of the second of Mosul's five destroyed bridges across the Tigris River, captured on February 19, 2017. Distribution Airbus DS / CNES / AFP
An aerial view of the second of Mosul's five destroyed bridges across the Tigris River, captured on February 19, 2017. Distribution Airbus DS / CNES / AFP

MOSUL // US-backed Iraqi forces captured the second of Mosul’s five bridges on Monday, giving a boost to their oush to retake the city’s western parts from ISIL.

All of Mosul’s five bridges over the Tigris River have been destroyed but the capture of their ruins facilitates the movement of forces progressing alongside the river, which cuts the city in two.

The bridge seized, Al Hurriya, is the second after one located further south. Its capture shields the back of the forces advancing toward a nearby government buildings complex.

“We control the western end of the bridge,” said a senior media officer with the interior ministry’s elite Rapid Response Unit, which is leading the charge toward the complex.

Recapturing the complex would help Iraqi forces attack the militants in the old city. It would also mark a symbolic step towards restoring state authority over Mosul, even though the buildings are destroyed and not being used by ISIL.

The battle for Mosul, which started on October 17, will enter a more complicated phase in the densely populated old city.

Civilians have been displaced in greater numbers in recent days, as the fighting rages in the middle of residential neighborhoods where populations have already been suffering for months from food, water and electricity shortages.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris on February 19.

“In the coming hours our forces will raise the Iraqi flag over the governorate building,” said federal police Brigadier General Shaalan Ali Saleh.

The militants have barricaded streets with civilian vehicles and rigged them with explosives to hinder the advance of Iraqi forces who were also met with sniper, machinegun and mortar fire, as well as explosives dropped from light drones.

Federal police units who are also taking part in the offensive are using similar drones to hit the militants.

The Iraqi military believes several thousand militants, including many who traveled from western and central Asian countries, are among west Mosuk’s remaining civilian population, which aid agencies estimated to number 750,000 at the start of the latest offensive.

* Reuters

Published: March 6, 2017 04:00 AM

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