On Tuesday, Iraqi government forces struck a major blow to the Islamic State by killing its commander of Mosul’s Old City, the militants’ last stronghold in Iraq.
The battle is focused on the Iron Bridge that crosses the Tigris river to link western and eastern Mosul. As fights intensified on Tuesday, ISIS snipers were able to slow the Interior Ministry Rapid Response units as they advanced on the bridge, but officers reported that elite forces were still gaining ground.
Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansari, the military commander of the Old City, was killed by Iraqi federal police as they battled to clear the Bab al-Tob district. The commander’s death marks another strike to ISIS since many of its leaders have already withdrawn from Mosul, leaving few to defend the final bastion in the city that had become their de facto capital.
Iraqi forces will hold three of the five bridges in Mosul spanning the Tigris once they capture the Iron Bridge. They have already retaken the two southernmost bridges.
Brigadier General Mahdi Abbas Abdullah of the Rapid Response force reported to Reuters, “We are still moving toward the Iron Bridge. We are taking out snipers hiding in the surrounding building, we are still pushing for the Iron Bridge.”
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The troops remained within 330 feet of the bridge for most of Tuesday’s fight, and expect to take control of the bridge and its surrounding areas by day’s end.
“Seizing the bridge will help further tighten the noose around Daesh fighters entrenched inside the old city,” said a Rabid Response spokesman.
As the government recaptured much of the city, civilians streamed out of western districts, relieved to escape the hold of militants. Soldiers loaded them onto trucks to be taken in for processing and shelter.
Since the start of the Iraqi forces’ move on Mosul, over 200,000 residents have been displaced. In recent days, approximately 13,000 displaced civilians from western Mosul have been helped. As many as 600,000 overall are believed to be or have been trapped in Mosul under ISIS militants.
The latest strides by Iraq are a great step in defeating ISIS. Mosul is by far the largest city the Islamic State has occupied since 2014, at which time Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself the leader of their caliphate — which stretches over Iraq and Syria — from a Mosul mosque.
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