US-backed Iraqi forces launch fresh push toward Mosul old city center; civilians caught in crossfire

Posted on March 06, 2017

BAGHDAD -- US-backed Iraqi forces launched on Sunday a new push toward the Islamic State-held old city center of Mosul, on the western bank of the Tigris river, an Iraqi military spokesman said.

A man cries as he carries his daughter while fleeing an Islamic State-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul, Iraq on March 4. -- Reuters
Iraqi forces are fighting their way toward the old center of the city, advancing from the south and the southwest, Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the joint operations command, told state-run television. Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19.

Their advance in western Mosul paused over the past 48 hours because of bad weather. Defeating Islamic State in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria.

In Washington, the US military said on Saturday that twenty-one civilians were killed in nine separate strikes by the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria between November and January.

That brings the total number of civilians unintentionally killed by the coalition since the start of operations against the militant group in 2014 to 220, the military said in a statement.

“Although the Coalition takes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties, in some incidents casualties are unavoidable,” the statement said.

The military estimate is far lower than those provided by monitoring groups.

At least 2,463 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes, according to monitoring group Airwars.

In an incident on Jan. 13, near the Iraqi city of Mosul, the military said eight civilians were killed during a strike on Islamic State fighters in a house.

“During post-strike video analysis civilians were identified near the house who were not evident prior to the strike,” the statement said.

As of Feb. 28, the coalition has carried out 18,666 strikes in Iraq and Syria since the start of the operation, according to US military data. The average daily cost of operations is $12.7 million, according to the data. -- Reuters