TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iraqi special forces paused their advance in an eastern district of Mosul Wednesday to clear a neighborhood of any remaining Daesh (ISIL or ISIS) militants, killing dozens while carrying out house-to-house clearances.
In the easternmost district of Gogjali, shops were boarded up, with some reduced to burnt-out shells. Families stood in their doorways, some holding white flags, while children flashed the “V’’ for victory sign to the passing troops. A few women ululated in celebration as columns of vehicles passed.
Consolidating the gains in the area lays the groundwork for the troops’ next stage of operation: entering Mosul’s more urban central neighborhoods, a densely built-up zone likely to contain booby traps and roadside bombs.
That could mean house-to-house combat and might take weeks, if not months, with the city center about 10 kilometers away.
Six Takfiri militants were only killed in a tunnel in the neighborhood, said Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Tamimi of the Iraqi special forces, speaking in an interview with the Associated Press.
For Hassan Hussein, a 22-year-old father of two, the day marked a fresh start.
“Today I feel like a new man, especially after shaving for the first time in two years,” he said. “My face feels cold!”
Hundreds of civilians cleared out of the adjacent neighborhood of Al-Samah, some carrying white flags.
Special forces went house to house in Gogjali throughout the day, while sappers searched the road for any explosives left behind by the militants. Only sporadic gunfire and artillery could be heard. Gen. Abdul-Ghani al-Assadi, commander of the counterterrorism forces, said a curfew had been imposed in the neighborhood.
“We fear that Daesh militants could attack,” he said, speaking in the town of Bartela, about 15 kilometers behind the front lines.
Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil said no further advances were planned for Wednesday because high humidity and clouds obscured the view of aircraft.
Farther south, Federal Police forces captured four villages outside the Hammam al-Alil area, more than 30 kilometers from Mosul, the army said. The largest is Min Gar, about 10 kilometers west of Hammam al-Alil, said Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the Army Joint Military Command.
Concern over the fate of civilians caught up in the fighting in and around Iraq’s second-largest city has been growing. Residents reported that Daesh militants were rounding up thousands of people as human shields or killing those with suspected links to the security forces.
According to one account given to the AP, the fighters went door to door in villages south of Mosul, ordering hundreds to march at gunpoint into the city. Combat in the urban areas is expected to be heavy, and the presence of civilians will slow the army’s advance as it seeks to avoid casualties. Daesh militants have carried out mass killings of opponents and boasted about their actions in grisly online photos and video. The United Nations has urged authorities to collect evidence of Daesh abuses of civilians for use in tribunals.
Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga fighters started a massive offensive against the Takfiri group on Oct. 17.
The recapture of Mosul would mark the Takfiri militants’ effective defeat in the Iraqi half of the territory they had seized.