US-backed Iraqi security forces launched attacks on several fronts on Friday as they pushed into western Mosul after recapturing the city’s airport and a former military base from Daesh.
The troops advanced into the Hawi al-Josaq and al-Danadan districts after breaching a berm and a trench set up by Daesh north of the airport, a spokesperson said.
Iraqi forces disarmed booby traps planted by Daesh militants who were retreating from the airport in the city’s southern outskirts.
The Iraqi army plans to use the airport as a base from which to drive Daesh from Mosul’s western districts and deal a decisive blow to the group.
The forces clashed with Daesh inside the southwestern district of al-Mamoun and took full control of the Ghozlani military base on Friday, Major General Sami al-Aridi said.
Battle for Mosul to enter most dangerous phase
The battle for western Mosul is expected to enter its most dangerous phase as 650,000 civilians remain trapped in the area.
Commanders expect the battle in western Mosul to be more difficult because tanks and armoured vehicles cannot pass through the narrow alleyways that crisscross ancient districts there.
The UN has warned up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the new offensive amid food and fuel shortages.
The government asked civilians to stay in their homes, but some were caught in the crossfire.
Witnesses, however, saw a dozen civilians fleeing towards Iraqi security forces from the outskirts of Mamoun.
Defeat in Mosul would likely deal a hammer blow to Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate in areas it seized in 2014.
Iraq launched the new offensive on Sunday after government forces and its allies finished clearing Daesh from eastern Mosul last month, confining the militants to the western districts.
The battle to take Mosul from Daesh is backed by an international coalition that provides vital air support as well as on-the-ground guidance and training.