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IS mines trap citizens

Reuters
Saturday, May 20, 2017

BAGHDAD - Islamic State militants are planting bombs near front doors in Mosul to prevent civilians leaving, a federal police commander and witnesses said on Wednesday, as Iraqi forces make their final push against the jihadists after seven months of fighting.

Trapped in a shrinking area of the city, the militants are increasingly using the several hundred thousand civilians under their control as human shields to avoid being targeted or perhaps tarnish what Iraqi leaders describe as imminent victory.

Backed by a US-led coalition, Iraqi forces have made rapid gains since opening a new front in northwest Mosul this month and have now dislodged Islamic State from all but about 12 square km (of the city).

The militants, however, still controlled the Old City, where they are expected to make their last stand in the densely populated, narrow streets that are impassible for armoured vehicles, forcing Iraqi forces to advance on foot.

The Iraqi government is pushing to declare victory by the holy month of Ramadan — expected to begin on May 27 — even if pockets of resistance remained in the Old City, according to military commanders.

Lieutenant-General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi told state TV his elite Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) were advancing steadily in the Rifaie and Najjar districts, aiming to reach the western bank of Tigris river and complete the Old City's encirclement.

"God willing the coming hours we will complete our assigned task," he said on Wednesday.

The militants had deployed 30 suicide car bombs against his troops in Mosul over the past two days, he said. In the Siha district, Lt-Gen Assadi said, Islamic State had chained civilians by the hands and used them as human shields to move around.

"We saw them moving with their weapons in the midst of the civilians but we did not strike them," he said.








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