Jan 16, 8:49 AM EST

Iraqi commander says fierce clashes with Islamic State militants underway in eastern Mosul

AP Photo
AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

Last U.S. combat troop leaves Iraq
Iraqi Election 2010: What's at Stake?
Returning Troops Find Alternative Motivations
U.S. Troop Casualties in Iraq
Related Stories
Iraqi commander says fierce clashes with Islamic State militants underway in eastern Mosul

As Iraqi forces secure a series of swift gains, civilian casualties in the Mosul operation are increasing

Small stalls and carts have sprung up in front of bombed-out buildings in eastern Mosul, selling meat and vegetables, cellphones and cigarettes to the thousands still living in neighborhoods where the Iraqi military has driven out the Islamic State group

Weeks of airstrikes, artillery fire reduce al-Salam hospital in Iraq's Mosul to a burnt-out shell

The U.N.'s humanitarian aid agency says an average of 1,000 people have fled the Iraqi city of Mosul each day over the last week amid a stepped-up Iraqi offensive to retake the city from the radical Islamic State group

Iraqi Communities in the U.S.

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi special forces battled Islamic State militants on Monday in two key neighborhoods in the eastern half of Mosul, a senior commander said, advancing deeper after fully routing IS from the sprawling complex of the Mosul University, a major step in the massive operation to retake the city.

According to Gen. Abdel Ghani al-Asadi, the head of Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces, the troops pushed deeper into the Shurta and Andalus neighborhoods. The two are among the last remaining sectors between government-held territory in eastern Mosul and the Tigris River, which divides the city.

In Andalus, bulldozers pushed aside road blocks ahead of a long convoy of black Humvees. Residents said the IS fighters had fled, just an hour before the assault began. Al-Aridi said the retreat showed the recent string of territorial victories had broken the will of the militants.

"The pace is medium, we're moving slowly because our forces are worried about bombs," he said.

IS sent six suicide car bombers to target the advancing Iraqi forces, but unlike in the first weeks of the Mosul operation, most of the cars used on Monday were not heavily armored and were disabled with tank fire.

One suicide bomber managed to drive his explosives-laden car through a roadblock and hit an Iraqi convoy. The blast shattered windows for blocks around, carpeting a quiet residential street with shrapnel.

At least one Humvee was torn apart by the attack and four soldiers were slightly wounded, according to an Iraqi officer overseeing the operation who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Iraqi state television showed live images of morning clashes near the five-star Ninevah International Hotel, one of the city's iconic buildings. In the footage, Humvees are seen driving by burnt-out buildings against a backdrop of explosions and gunfire.

Al-Aridi said Iraqi forces expect to reach the last remaining bridges that span the Tigris within days.

Four months into the Mosul operation, Iraqi forces say they control nearly all of the city's eastern half, but another wave of intense IS resistance likely awaits them in Mosul's west.

The western half of the city is home to some of Mosul's oldest neighborhoods, with narrow streets that will further complicate the urban fight. Also, the United Nations estimates that more than 700,000 people are trapped there, living under siege-like conditions.


Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.