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#MosulOp: Iraqi forces storm southeast town of Hamam al-Alil

In eastern Mosul Iraq's special forces cleared buildings in neighbourhoods captured on Friday [AFP]

Date of publication: 5 November, 2016

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Iraqi forces fighting on the southern front in the Mosul offensive launched an attack on IS-held Hamam al-Alil on Saturday, encircling the town from three fronts, military sources confirm.
Iraq's army and federal police forces attacked Islamic State group positions a strategic town south of Mosul on Saturday, a day after troops drove out militants from eastern Mosul in their drive to take back the city.

Iraqi forces encircled the town of Hamam al-Alil from three fronts, reaching the college of agriculture at its edge, a statement from Iraq's Joint Military Command said.

Iraqi war planes backed the assault on the town, which is lies along the Tigris river, about 15 kilometres [9 miles] from the southernmost parts of Mosul.

"Officers of the federal police forces surrounded the town of Hamam al-Ali after assaulting IS positions there on Saturday morning," a Nineveh Liberation Operations Command officer told The New Arab.

"Clashes were intense as the militants fought back using planted landmines and bombs to stop advances into the town, which will form a strategic hub for Iraqi forces entering the city. Military reinforcements were sent to the area to help counter the attacks."

Kurdish media outlet Rudaw broadcast live footage of Iraqi troops and armoured vehicles massing outside the town as an attack helicopter fired rockets into the city.

Truckloads full of as many as 1,600 civilians may have been forcibly moved from Hamam al-Alil to Tal Afar earlier this week and could be transferred onward into Syria for likely use as human shields

Truckloads - as many as 1,600 civilians  -may have been forcibly moved from Hamam al-Alil to Tal Afar earlier this week and could be transferred onward into Syria for likely use as human shields, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned on Friday.

Another 150 families from the town were moved to Mosul itself, the UN said.

In eastern Mosul, Iraq's special forces cleared buildings on Saturday in neighbourhoods captured a day earlier.

But the fighting between Iraqi forces and IS militants continued in the morning, with both sides firing mortars and automatic weapons on each other's positions, while the Iraqi troops also responded with artillery.

Clashes were most intense in the al-Bakr neighbourhood.

Sniper duels played out from rooftops in the mostly residential areas, where the majority of buildings are two stories high.

"[IS] is in the city centre and we must be very careful as our forces advance," said Major General Sami al-Aridi of the Iraqi special forces.

Dozens of civilians in the Tahrir and Zahara districts emerged from their homes, some of them carrying white flags, and headed toward the troops to be evacuated from the battlefield.

The special forces launched a two-pronged assault deeper into Mosul's urban centre on Friday, unleashing the most intense street battles against IS militants since the offensive to retake the city began nearly three weeks ago.

At least seven special forces troops were killed in the fighting.

Released satellite images reveal IS defences

Images published by geographic intelligence company Stratfor on Friday reveal that IS militants in Mosul have set up daunting defences designed to bog down advancing troops.

The satellite images, taken on 31 October, show rows of concrete barricades, earthen berms and rubble blocking key routes leading to the core of the city.

Militants have also cleared terrain and leveled buildings around Mosul airport and a nearby former military base on the west bank of the Tigris.

The group likely did so to create a wall to better target Iraqi forces and give them open spaces to fire on advancing troops from further away, according to Stratfor.

The intelligence firm said these defenses "will pose a substantial tactical challenge" to Iraqi forces as they make their way toward central Mosul.

An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 IS fighters are scattered across the sprawling city, Iraq's second largest, where a million-plus civilians are believed to be trapped.

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