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Iraqi Forces Take Eastern Mosul From Islamic State

Iraq's government forces said on Wednesday that they had gained control of the eastern half of Mosul, three months after they began an assault to retake the northern city from Islamic State militants.

The Iraqi advance – the biggest military operation in the years since the United States ended its occupation of the country in 2011 – was aided by American air support and military advisers. But after weeks of heavy fighting and high casualties in areas of Mosul east of the Tigris River, the older and more densely populated western neighborhoods of the city remain in Islamic State hands.

Mosul, which was Iraq's second-largest city when the Islamic State seized it in 2014, has become a focal point in the broader battle to crush the Islamic State, the Sunni extremist group that claimed to have established a new Islamic caliphate in areas of Iraq and Syria.

Tens of thousands of Mosul residents have fled since the Iraqi military began the recapturing operation in October, beginning with sparsely populated outer districts. Roughly a million civilians are believed to still be in the city.

Members of Iraq's counterterrorism service were the lead fighters in seizing eastern Mosul, and they faced ferocious resistance from Islamic State defenders who had planted booby traps and sent suicide bombers to stop them. American warplanes sought to block the Islamic State from reinforcing fighters in the east by bombing the Tigris bridges linking it to the western side.

Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati of the Iraqi Army said on Wednesday that his forces had effectively taken control of the eastern side, declaring that "important lines and important areas are finished." He spoke at a news conference in Bartella, a town east of Mosul.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, in a statement posted on his Twitter account, extolled what he described as "the efforts of our brave forces" to retake Mosul.

It remains unclear how long it may take to clear the western half, which is characterized by narrow streets that could make the fight against entrenched Islamic State fighters even more treacherous.

The triumphal moment on Wednesday was tempered by growing exasperation in the western city of Falluja, where Iraqi forces and allied militias routed Islamic State fighters more than six months ago. Many neighborhoods were destroyed in that battle, and residents have increasingly complained that much of the city remains uninhabitable.

In a dispatch from the Sunni-dominated Falluja, Agence France-Presse quoted civilians as saying the lack of reconstruction, services and jobs threatened to rekindle the resentment toward the Shiite-led government in Baghdad that had helped incubate support for the Islamic State among some members of the Sunni Arab minority.

Iraqi officials have said they lack money for reconstruction, hobbled by the country's overreliance on its oil industry, which has been repeatedly disrupted by war and depressed by low prices.

[Source: By Rick Gladstone, The New York Times, 18Jan17]

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small logoThis document has been published on 20Jan17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.