Iraq opens new Tigris bridge escape route for people fleeing Mosul

Posted April 19, 2017

In Iraq, door-to-door fight between government forces and Islamic State militants continues in old city of Mosul.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

Iraqi government forces have taken back most of it in a USA -backed offensive launched in October, including the half that lies east of the Tigris river.

Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, was captured by the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in mid 2014.

"The battle in western Mosul is very different than in the east - it's much tougher".

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The Islamic State (ISIS) radical group is seeking a possible alliance with al-Qaeda after suffering heavy losses, Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi said on Monday.

Long queues formed at the new bridge on Tuesday with families crossing in public buses, trucks and taxis.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has opened a new camp in Iraq's Hammam al-Alil to house thousands of newly-displaced people fleeing the fighting in western Mosul.

"Everything is back to normal", said a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

However, a military spokesperson of government forces has claimed that they have gained some fresh ground.

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The United Nations says almost half a million civilians had fled fighting since the offensive to retake Mosul from Daesh terrorists started on October 17, 2016.

'They (Islamic State militants) carry out attacks on our defensive lines, but each time we repel them and they run away, leaving bodies of their dead fighters behind, ' Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Lazim Zghayer said of the force's 9th division.

"There are discussions and dialogue between messengers representing [IS leader Abu Bakr] Baghdadi and representing [the head of al Qaeda, Ayman] al Zawahiri", he said.

While officials are claiming some small gains near the ancient al-Nuri Mosque, the situation is largely unchanged in the past month, with intense, door-to-door fighting providing little opportunity for noticeable territory to change hands, and weeks often going by on the same couple of city blocks.

"It is unclear how exactly both groups may work together", Allawi said.

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