IS fighters completely "trapped" in Mosul - US envoy

IS fighters completely

IS fighters completely "trapped" in Mosul - US envoy

After "fully liberating" the city's east from IS in January, US-backed Iraqi forces moved onto western Mosul, with a renewed push in March. Since beginning the campaign in October, Iraq forces, teamed with US -led coalition support, have recaptured eastern Mosul, along with around 30 percent of the west from outnumbered militants who are fiercely defending their last stronghold in Iraq.

In July 2014, HRW reported that Iraqi forces under the authority of the Baghdad government executed approximately 255 prisoners in six Iraqi cities as revenge attacks against Daesh.

The forces are conducting "combing and search operations in the liberated areas of Bab al-Toub, searching for traps and mines and terrorists hiding among the people", Jawdat said in a statement.

"The enemy has lost its fighting power and its resolve has weakened. There is no water and there is no food and nothing", said Ghanem Mohamed, one of the residents who fled.

Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat said that forces from the Rapid Response Division, another special forces unit, and the federal police were working to search and clear territory on the edge of Mosul's Old City. Since then, more than 200,000 residents have fled the city, with 65,000 fleeing in just the past two weeks as fighting there has intensified, according to numbers from the International Organization for Migration.

The operation to recapture west Mosul began on February 19.

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The old city remains one of ISIL's last strongholds, but the Islamic militants appear to be on the brink of losing their last major urban base in Iraq. It is very evident that a permissive environment is emerging for another Sunni insurgency in the vacuum of control left by ISIS, into which other actors would surely emerge.

Removing the jihadis from Iraq's second largest city - which it has controlled since the summer of 2014 - will effectively spell the end of Isis, as a land-holding force in the country, driving the remnants of the group back to their de facto capital of Raqqa in neighbouring Syria.

The group is expected to pose a continuing threat, reverting to insurgent tactics such as bombings.

Amid the battle, Iraqi paramilitary forces said they discovered a mass grave northwest of Mosul containing what are believed to be the remains of about 500 inmates.

So-called Islamic State (IS) is alleged to have killed hundreds of inmates, a lot of them Shia Muslims, when it seized Mosul in 2014.

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