Iraqi forces kill top ISIS commander as the Mosul offensive intensifies

Iraqi forces kill top ISIS commander as the Mosul offensive intensifies

A prominent Iraqi Sunni politician on Monday warned Washington the acceleration in a military campaign in western Mosul to drive out Islamic State jihadists was causing a sudden surge in civilian casualties that threatened to undermine the effort to crush the militants.

"After this we will start an operation to seal off the area near the bridge to clear it from Daesh fighters", said a spokesman for the Interior Ministry's Rapid Response units, one of the elite forces spearheading the offensive, using an Arab acronym for the group.

Soldiers packed them into trucks on the Mosul-Baghdad highway to be taken to processing areas.

The renewed fighting has focused on a bridge over the River Tigris.

The total number of Iraqis to have been displaced from western Mosul now stands at 111,000, according to Iraqi Minister of Displacement and Migration Jassim al-Jaff, who added that the ongoing displacement rate had reached between 7,000 and 8,000 people per day. Tens of thousands have been pouring into camps outside Mosul.

The army had earlier recaptured the east of the city in an offensive that began past year.

Soldiers from the 9th Armored Division scored an important victory on Saturday night when they cut the last road out of west Mosul, said Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the global anti-IS coalition.

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"We fled at 5 a.m. after the army had arrived".

"Unless there is a political process that restores confidence of Sunnis in the state.in a post-Daesh phase there may emerge more organizations of terrorists that are even more extreme than Daesh", he said. Food had been scarce, they said.

More than 65,000 of them fled their homes over the past two weeks, the organisation said.

As many as 600,000 civilians are caught with the militants inside Mosul, which Iraqi forces have effectively sealed off from the remaining territory that Islamic State controls in Iraq and Syria.

Mainstream Sunnis believe the Shi'ite led administration has discriminated against them and also say Shi'ite Iran's influence has expanded in the security forces and paramilitary groups. The decisive stage in the battle for Mosul started on October 17 past year. "We are facing stiff resistance from Daesh fighters with snipers and mortars", an Iraqi official said.

Losing Mosul would be a major strike against Islamic State. It would break the militant group's hold on territory in Iraq and end its control over half the "caliphate", which once spanned from northern Syria through western Iraq.

"The fight is in the old city now, but it's tough, the streets are narrow", said Nasser Taleb, 34, a bandage over his eye from a bullet ricochet wound he said he suffered on Aleppo Street on the edge of the old city, where intense fighting took place at the weekend.

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