Iraqi forces advance to heart of ISIS stronghold, capturing half of strategic neighbourhood

A strong and determined Iraqi army continues to advance on all fronts on Islamic State (IS) militants in western Mosul.

Half of the district of Al-Thawra which is located south-east of IS controlled territory has been liberated. Operations began at 6am to take the district with significant gains being made. 6 IS snipers were killed allowing 80 families to cross over to government controlled territory. These gains bring with them not only more territory and thus liberation for more and more Iraqi families who have reported cases of starvation, abuse and violence against them, but also, ironically, IS weapons which are being used against themselves.

For example, as a result of the seizure of weapons from the IS by Iraqi forces, Iraqi special forces are now using rocket launchers made by the IS against them. This also has a positive effect on the morale of the Iraqi forces and continues the momentum against the IS.

However, IS militants are finding innovative and disastrous ways to fight back. They are doing this in three main ways with all three of them having their own characteristic effects. Firstly, with the use of sleeper cells. In the south of Mosul, security forces carried out operations to crackdown on IS sleeper cells. 16 suspected IS members were arrested in Qayyarah & Hammam al Alil. The Nineveh Police confirmed that several other suspects were also arrested in camps around Hammam al-Alil, as security forces grow cautious of the potential presence of IS members hiding amongst internally displaced persons (IDP’s).

Secondly, for those still trapped in western Mosul, the use of violence and human shields, and the deprivation of food and water for the citizens has put pressure on government forces to act more quickly in defeating the IS. In fact, there have been calls by Iraqi generals to make incremental gains as opposed to ambitious swooping attempts at gaining ground. This sense of urgency must not dilute careful planning on the part of the army, as this is the only way to ensure the swift and precise defeat of ISIS in western Mosul.

Thirdly, the use of bobby traps in buildings and toxic gases on liberated areas. Maximum death and destruction is the modus operandi of IS, this has been shown time and time again through their scorched earth policy which leaves a trial of destruction when they abandon an area. As they retreat it is not unusual for them to pepper the streets and farmer’s fields with landmines and lace hospitals, residential buildings and government offices with bobby traps. Along with this, western Mosul residents have revealed that “ISIS has used toxic gasses in its attack on neighborhoods recently liberated by Iraqi forces” making the rescue efforts even more complex for the government.