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Mosul mission update

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U.S. and coalition military forces continued to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria yesterday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today, reported U.S Department of Defence.
Officials reported details of yesterday’s strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Iraq
Coalition military forces conducted eight strikes consisting of 73 engagements] in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:
— Near Al Qaim, a strike destroyed an ISIS explosives cache.
-- Near Bayji, a strike destroyed an ISIS vehicle.
-- Near Kisik, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS-held building.
-- Near Mosul, four strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units; destroyed 56 ISIS vehicles, 25 fighting positions, five rocket-propelled grenade systems, two medium machine guns, two mortar systems, and an ISIS car bomb; and suppressed 20 ISIS mortar teams and four ISIS tactical units.
-- Near Tal Afar, a strike destroyed an ISIS car bomb factory.

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The Iraqi Federal Police command has reiterated it was “very close” to a strategic mosque in western Mosul, proceeding with operations to clear the region from Islamic State militants, reported Iraqi News.

The service’s chief, Shaker Jawdat, said in a statement on Sunday that his forces were very close to the Grand Nuri Mosque in Old Mosul, another primary target for Iraqi security forces seeking to eradicate IS from western Mosul since February.

“Federal Police troops have become very close to liberating al-Hadbaa Minaret, the second most important strategic target in western Mosul after the liberated government buildings,” Jawdat said, using the Arabic common reference to the mosque’s “leaning” minaret.

The Nuri Mosque was the location where IS supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi delivered his famous sermon in 2014 to declare the establishment of a self-styled “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq, appointing himself as a Caliph “ruler” of the proclaimed state.
Jawdat added that his forces, advancing towards the mosque, killed tens of militants and destroyed 23 booby-trapped vehicles.

Forces have made remarkable achievements since February, retaking main government buildings, the city’s airport and a major military base. The troops have recently pushed deeper into the Old City, a densely-populated and -structured area which military officials view as central to the desired victory over IS militants.

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Iraqi forces said Monday that they have taken more territory from jihadists and were searching for militants and bombs on the edge of the Old City as they press an offensive in west Mosul, reported Your Middle East (Sweden).
They are also striking IS with armed drones as part of a renewed push launched on March 5 that has forced the jihadists out of several neighbourhoods and key sites, including the famed Mosul museum.

West Mosul is the most-populated urban area still held by the jihadists, followed by Syria's Raqa, which is also a key target in the US-led anti-IS campaign.

Iraq's Joint Operations Command announced additional gains on Monday, saying that forces from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service had recaptured west Mosul's Al-Nafat neighbourhood.

Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said that forces from the Rapid Response Division, another special forces unit, and the federal police were working to search and clear territory on the edge of Mosul's Old City.

The forces are conducting "combing and search operations in the liberated areas of Bab al-Toub, searching for traps and mines and terrorists hiding among the people", Jawdat said in a statement.

The Old City -- a warren of narrow streets and closely spaced buildings where hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to still be living -- could see some of the toughest fighting of the campaign to retake Iraq's second city.

The commander also said that armed observation drones are being used to monitor and strike IS, as Iraqi forces also targeted jihadist defences and positions with field artillery and rockets.
He did not specify what type of drones was being used.

More than 68,000 people have fled west Mosul since February 25, streaming to camps around the city, according to the International Organization for Migration.
But that is only a small fraction of the 750,000 people who were estimated to still be in west Mosul at the time the operation was launched.

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Civilians continue to suffer in the war to drive ISIS from Iraq. On Thursday, family members fled the city, bringing with them the bodies of at least 21 allegedly killed in an airstrike targeting ISIS in west Mosul earlier this week, reported Rudaw (Kurd).

“They were pulled from the rubble. Twenty-one bodies, women and children. Even a baby of just six months,” Ziad Khalaf told AFP, pulling a cart bearing the bodies of members of his family.
“They were human shields for the jihadists.”

He and others tried to retrieve the bodies but came under fire from ISIS militants. They had to wait until the neighbourhood was retaken by Iraqi security forces before being able to dig through the rubble and find their loved ones.

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, Lise Grande, told reporters earlier this week that civilians are at risk whether they choose to flee the city or remain in their homes. Those who choose to stay face extreme risks from crossfire, snipers, and explosive hazards; while families who choose to leave are equally at risk: families get separated, ISIS targets them, and there is a risk of explosive hazards.

During the offensive to retake east Mosul, Grande estimated in January that 47 percent of all casualties were civilians. She said this week that in west Mosul, the reports they are receiving from families indicate that there is “much more destruction” in the city.

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