Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared on Tuesday the eastern side of the city of Mosul was fully liberated after more than 100 days of fighting against the militants of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

Following the liberation of eastern Mosul, al-Abadi promised to retake the western part of the city, where an estimated 750,000 people are still living under the control of IS militants.

MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT FOR IRAQI FORCES

Addressing a press conference in Baghdad, al-Abadi praised the “heroic forces and the unity of all Iraqis.”

“The heroism of our security forces was behind Daesh’s defeat,” al-Abadi said, using the Arabia acronym of the IS.

“This is a major achievement for the Iraqi forces,” al-Abadi said, adding “We have proved that Daesh is shrinking and disappearing.”

In addition, a military statement said that the army soldiers liberated the eastern Mosul after they swept the remaining areas left in the hands of IS militants in the northern outskirts of the eastern bank of the city.8 The troops, backed by the U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi aircraft, freed the neighborhood of Rashidiyah and the nearby villages of Ba’wiza, Baysan and Shrikhan after heavy clashes with IS militants, leaving dozens of them killed and destroying eight car bombs, according to a statement from the Joint Operations Command.

The troops also killed two suicide bombers, shot down five unmanned drones carrying bombs and destroyed three vehicles carrying heavy machine guns, the statement said.

On Oct. 17, 2016, al-Abadi announced the start of a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city and IS militants’ last major urban stronghold in Iraq.

The second phase of the offensive to free the eastern bank of Mosul began on Dec. 29.

Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions.

LIBERATING WESTERN MOSUL HIGH ON AGENDA

Experts believe that with the recapture of the whole eastern side of Mosul, the troops will soon begin a new phase of the anti-IS major offensive on the western part of the city.

At the press conference, al-Abadi urged the security forces to move quickly to liberate all the remaining areas of Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh, in particular the western side of the provincial capital city of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River which bisects the city.

However, as the militants have started using civilians as human shields in the fighting, international bodies and aid groups expressed concerns about the fate of the people living in the city still held by the IS.

Civilians in Mosul are falling victim to airstrikes targeting IS combatants, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warned Tuesday, saying “it is difficult to verify how many civilians may have been killed or injured.”

This is mainly because IS insurgents are continuing to use civilian houses and infrastructure as bases while using civilians as human shields, the UN rights body explained.

OHCHR urged all parties to the conflict to take necessary precautions to ensure that civilians do not get caught up in fighting between Iraqi government forces and IS fighters.

According to reports, Iraqi security forces’ operation to take back the western part of the northern city is set to begin in the coming weeks.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety and humanitarian conditions of people who remain in IS-occupied western Mosul city, which it is estimated to be as many as 750,000,” OHCHR continued.

“Reports suggest that IS fighters have taken over hospitals in western Mosul city and are using them as military bases, and that they are diverting available resources, including food, water and medicines, to their fighters,” it added.

The UN body also warned that it had received a large number of reports that civilians are being killed and wounded by IS shells, improvised explosive devices, suicide attacks as well as snipers in areas now under government control.

Those attempting to flee have also been targeted, OHCHR added.

According to figures from the International Organization for Migration, over 160,000 people have fled Mosul and its adjacent districts since the military campaign kicked off in October last year. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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