Friday, 23 June, 2017

Islamic State launches chlorine gas attacks in western Mosul

UN: Destruction in fight to take west Mosul worse than east Inside Mosul: Scenes of the Toll of War in Mosul
Melinda Barton | 21 April, 2017, 19:16

Iraqi forces launched a new attack on Islamic State in Mosul's Old City on Sunday, military officials said, trying to break the stalemate in attempts to seize the militants' last stronghold.

The United Nations says destruction from the Iraqi military operation to retake western Mosul from Daesh is two-and-a-half times greater than it was in eastern Mosul, retaken earlier this year.

In February, Iraqi ground forces - backed by the USA -led coalition's air power - began fresh operations aimed at ousting Daesh from western Mosul, the terrorist group's last bastion in northern Iraq.

Some 400,000 people are trapped in the area controlled by extremists, as Iraqi forces make slow progress in liberating the rest of the city from the jihadists.

"The [IS] terrorist gangs tried to block the advance of our forces by using shells filled with toxic chemical material, but the effect was limited", Iraq's Joint Operations Command said on April 16.

- March 12: More than a third of the city's western side has now been retaken, a top military official says.

- January 8: Iraqi units reach the Tigris River that divides Mosul and take up positions near one of the city's five bridges, all now destroyed.

The battle for west Mosul - which was launched in mid-February - has taken a heavy toll on civilians, with hundreds killed or wounded in the fighting, and more than 200,000 displaced.

Losing Mosul would be a major blow to IS, but would not mark the end of the war against the jihadists.

The worldwide humanitarian aid agencies are working around-the-clock to expand the emergency sites and camps to shelter the hundreds of thousands more who may flee their homes in coming days and weeks, the statement said.

A Reuters correspondent saw thick smoke billowing over the Old City, near the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, from where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.

"We're reaching families who have fled and families who have stayed [but] Mosul has pushed us to our operational limits", said the Humanitarian Coordinator.