Iraqi special forces fighting Islamic State militants in the northern city of Mosul seized a new neighbourhood on Friday and took full control of a densely-populated neighbourhood, where troops happened upon a residential complex for IS fighters, according to two Iraqi field commanders.
Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Tamimi of the special forces told The Associated Press his men were now in full control of the Zohour neighbourhood, more than a week after they first entered the district.
He said his men also captured the neighbourhood of Qadissiyah-2, bringing to 23 the number of neighbourhoods retaken by the special forces in the eastern sector of the city since the campaign to recapture Mosul began on Oct. 17.
Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the special forces later told the AP on Friday that his men had taken over two adjacent, two-story houses in Zohour where IS fighters lived. In the garden, they found life-sized cardboard cutouts for target practice, he said.
The walls inside the two houses were adorned with posters of RPGs, assault rifles and artillery shells. Some posters had instructions for snipers and RPG users, he said. Flyers bearing the names of the fighters who slept in each room were plastered on doors, he added.
Shortly after Gen. Fadhil spoke, the state-run al-Iraqiyah TV network showed footage taken inside the houses, with black-clad special forces searching them with their rifles on the ready. The footage showed metal bunker beds dressed with colourful blankets.
There has been some discrepancy over the exact number of neighbourhoods retaken from IS thus far, something that Iraqi commanders explain as a possible result of the use of different maps of the city or the exceptionally small size of some neighbourhoods.
On Wednesday, for example, Gen. Fadhil of the special forces said his men were in control of 19 neighbourhoods, which constituted less than 30 percent of the part of the city east of the Tigris River.
Most of the fighting in Mosul has taken place in the city’s eastern sector, where Iraq’s special forces are making slow progress because of fears over the safety of civilians still inside the city and spirited IS resistance.
The campaign to retake Mosul is being launched on a multitude of fronts, with forces from the army, federal police and Sunni tribal militias deployed to the north and south of the city. State-sanctioned militias are holding territory to the west of Mosul, but are not expected to enter the mostly Sunni city.
Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul was captured by IS in 2014 when the militants swept across much of Iraq’s north and west. The city is the largest urban center in Iraq still held by IS.