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Middle East

Iraqi forces drive deeper into eastern Mosul

Iraqi troops advanced into eastern Mosul in the third week of the operation to recapture the city occupied by the self-styled "Islamic State." The US-led air coalition is carrying out airstrikes and directing artillery.

Iraq's elite Counter-Terrorism Service pushed into the Al-Karama area of eastern Mosul on Friday, just days after it and Iraqi regular army forces reached the outskirts of the city. Iraqi troops are being supported by US airstrikes, artillery and military coordination. Some 3,000 bombs, missiles, rockets and shells have been fired at "Islamic State" (IS) fighters dug into the city since the drive for Mosul began on October 17.

Iraqi soldiers have also advanced toward the northern edge of the city, while Kurdish forces have gained ground north and east of Mosul in recent days. Between 3,000 and 5,000 "IS" fighters are thought to still be in Mosul. 

Residents in Mosul told the AFP news agency that jihadis have forcibly gathered civilians in and around the city for possible use as human shields, confirming United Nations reports of similar kidnappings.

Washington has warned that up to a million people could be displaced by the battle for the city - a major problem given that existing, under-construction and planned camps can only house about half that number. The International Organization for Migration said Friday that more than 22,000 people have fled to government-controlled areas since the Mosul operation began.

Global Ideas Through the lens KW 44 (Reuters/A. Jadallah)

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.

This comes as the UN's human rights body said hundreds of people, including 50 deserters and 180 former Iraqi government employees, have been executed by "IS" in and around Mosul. UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said Friday that "IS" fighters are believed to be holding an estimated 400 Kurdish, Yazidi and Shia women in Tal Afar. The UN also had reports of US-led coalition airstrikes causing civilian deaths, including one on Wednesday evening that reportedly killed four women and injured 17 other civilians in the al Qudus neighborhood in eastern Mosul.

jar/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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