Iraqi Army-ISIS deadly clashes in Mosul
MOSUL, Iraq (APP) - Elite Iraqi troops battled the Islamic State group in the streets of Mosul Friday, as the UN reported jihadists had executed dozens of people inside the city for alleged "treason".
With IS also on the defensive in neighbouring Syria, US-backed forces pressed an advance on jihadist bastion Raqa after a sandstorm eased.
High winds in the desert separating the Syrian Kurdish-Arab militia alliance from the jihadists' Euphrates Valley stronghold had slowed their advance Thursday as visibility plummeted.
Commanders of Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said troops were advancing on two eastern neighbourhoods of the city.
In a house near the front line, Staff Lieutenant Colonel Muntadhar Salem clutched a radio in one hand and a tablet computer in the other with a map showing recaptured buildings.
As the troops waited for orders to push forward, incoming mortar rounds shook curtains on the windows.
IS fighters reportedly shot dead more than 60 people this week and hung some of the bodies from poles inside Mosul after claiming they had collaborated with Iraqi troops, the UN human rights office said Friday.
"On Tuesday, ISIL (IS) reportedly shot and killed 40 civilians in Mosul city after accusing them of 'treason and collaboration'", it said.
On Wednesday, IS slaughtered another 20 people at the Ghabat Military Base in northern Mosul after accusing them of "leaking information", it added.
The battle for Mosul is now in its fourth week, and while troops have entered the built-up area, there are weeks, if not months, of fighting ahead.
"Our forces have begun the attack on Arbajiyah. The clashes are ongoing," Salem said.
Another CTS officer, Staff Lieutenant Colonel Ali Hussein Fadhel, said the first row of buildings in Arbajiyah had been seized.
"We are within firing range of Karkukli but the full attack has not yet started," he said of another eastern district.
Iraq began the operation to retake Mosul on October 17, with federal and Kurdish regional forces closing in on the city from three sides.
Pro-government Shiite paramilitaries later began advancing on the town of Tal Afar, which commands the city's western approaches, with the goal of cutting the jihadists off from territory they control in Syria.
The advance up the Tigris Valley from the south has been slowest. Troops on that front had the farthest to cover and a string of jihadist-held towns in their path.
On Thursday, the battle neared the remains of ancient Nimrud, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) south of Mosul, raising fears for the famed heritage site already ravaged by jihadist explosives and sledgehammers.