Iraqi security forces in Monday continued their clashes against the Islamic State (IS) militants and seized more ground in and near the city of Mosul, after almost six weeks since a major offensive was launched to drive out the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in the country, the Iraqi military said. Shepherd Abdel Menaeim says he used to shear the animals to sell their wool.
Six weeks in, the Iraqi special forces have managed to reach the outskirts of the city itself, where there has been tense fighting.
The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. The column was attacked by several massive vehicle bombs that shook the ground a kilometer (0.60 miles) away.
"We have killed more than 992 fighters on our front plus more wounded".
Later, dozens of civilian pickup trucks loaded with armed militiamen sped off toward the villages, as the column of Humvees retreated, with some of them damaged or showing cracked windshields.
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But commanders have said the battle could take months. It is the extremist group's last major urban center in Iraq.
The United Nations said on Tuesday there were indications that poorer families in Mosul are struggling to feed themselves as a result of rising food prices amid disturbing claims that ISIS is killing civilians for refusing to cooperate with the jihadists in the northern Iraqi city. Heavy IS resistance inside Mosul has also contributed to the campaign's slow pace.
However, their progress has since been slowed by sniper fire, suicide auto bomb attacks and the presence of more than a million civilians still living there. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the special forces said his men on Monday advanced farther in the large and densely populated neighborhood of Zohour. IS has been firing an average of 100 mortars daily on their positions, the spokesman, Jaafar al-Husseini.
Kurdish and Iraqi intelligence services estimate that between 5,000 and 8,000 militants, including many foreign fighters, are still in central parts of the city where the majority of the residents also live. In the Mosul fight, Human Rights Watch accused the militia groups of beating and detaining villagers southeast of the city where they are operating.