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Iraqi forces thwart ISIL attacks against civilians in Mosul

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi forces help evacuate residents from west Mosul's al-Mamoun neighbourhood to safer areas. [Photo courtesy of Counter-Terrorism Service]

Residents of western Mosul are facing an increasing risk of getting killed in retaliatory attacks by the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

As ISIL militants find themselves trapped inside the city , they are intensifying their attacks against civilians and using a scorched-earth policy in one last desperate attempt to save themselves, officials said.

At a temporary medical centre at Khazar camp, Mayada Yasin, 41, was being treated for bruises she sustained when the roof of her house fell on her after a March 1st car bomb explosion in west Mosul's al-Mamoun neighbourhood.

Yasin and her family of seven narrowly escaped death, she told Diyaruna.

After the incident, they were immediately evacuated along with other families in their neighbourhood to the camp where they await the full liberation of Mosul before they return to their homes.

"A new life was written for us," she said. "We were trapped in our house for 10 days when our stock of food ran out. The clashes were violent, so we decided to leave after the situation calmed down."

But then the car bomb happened.

"I was injured in my legs and hands, but that is not important," said Yasin. "What is important is that we are all safe and secure now."

Desperate tactics

ISIL is trying to target anyone who leaves the area to the displacement camps, but Iraqi troops are on the lookout and responding to any attempt against civilians.

The group is using car bombs, mines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and sniper fire to deter civilians from fleeing.

These terrorist attacks target civilians in a "retaliatory fashion", Ninawa provincial council security committee member Hassan Shubeib al-Sabawi told Diyaruna, noting that the greater the restrictions on ISIL the more criminal its elements become.

"Civilians in neighbourhoods of western Mosul have become a prime target for terrorists," he told Diyaruna.

"In al-Nabi Sheet neighbourhood, security forces foiled (on March 4th) an attack by six car bombs driven by suicide bombers that were targeting gatherings of displaced residents and military units."

ISIL militants also burned many houses and cars in Wadi Hajar neighbourhood before they withdrew from it, he said.

This was "in retaliation for the residents' support of the liberation operations", according to al-Sabawi.

The group follows a " scorched-earth policy with every neighbourhood it loses", he said.

"ISIL is now desperate," he said. "All its elements that were expelled from the provinces of Anbar, Salaheddine and Diyala then settled with their families in eastern Mosul, have had to flee to western Mosul after the east side was liberated and now they are completely surrounded."

"We expect the battle to become more difficult as new more densely populated neighbourhoods are stormed," al-Sabawi said.

Protecting fleeing families

Iraqi MP for Ninawa province Ahmed Madloul al-Jarba told Diyaruna that ISIL does not hesitate to commit any acts against civilians in retaliation for its defeats.

"There are at least 600,000 people that still live in western Mosul and they are hostages in the hands of ISIL," he said.

Al-Jarba stressed the need to resolve the battle quickly and not give the group an opportunity to harm unarmed civilians.

He also urged to step up efforts to aid and shelter displaced families.

"The number of displaced people since the start of the liberation operation in west Mosul on February 19th has reached about 50,000 people and is growing steadily," he said.

In the past month, Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces have evacuated 14,000 people from west Mosul "safely and without any losses", CTS spokesman Brig. Gen. Sabah al-Numan told Diyaruna.

Those forces also "were able to repel attacks by the group on civilians and provide them with safe escape routes", he said.

Liberating forces are engaged in fierce fighting with ISIL elements and the battles are "progressing as planned", he added.

"We have liberated important and strategic neighbourhoods such as Wadi Hajar and al-Mamoun costing the enemy dozens of casualties and limiting its offensive activities and its defenses," he said.

This week, the Joint Operations Command announced Iraqi forces have retaken a third of west Mosul and continue to make great progress to recapture the Old City.

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