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A US-led coalition airstrike on Wednesday completely cut off IS- held Mosul, an Iraqi official was quoted as saying by AFP. According to reports by AP, the IS group’s media arm, the Aamaq news agency, and a top Iraqi commander in Mosul reported the airstrike, which took place before dawn. The airstrike ‘disabled’ the fourth bridge on Mosul’s Tigris river, hampering the extremist group’s supply lines. The river Tigris had five bridges over Mosul, before the Iraq government started a crackdown on the IS-occupied areas of the country. This was the second airstrike on a bridge in this week and the fourth since the Iraq government’s campaign to reclaim Mosul from Islamic State which started around mid October.
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After the airstrike there was fierce battle between the Iraq’s special forces and IS fighters in the eastern Mosul neighbourhood. The Iraqi forces are advancing towards the heart of the city slowed down by sniper fire, suicide bombings and concerns over safety of the population trapped in the city.
The disabled bridges will ensure that the Iraqi forces and its allies (Sunni tribesmen and Kurdish peshmerga forces) will have to make use of military pontoon bridges to go across the river on the arrival at banks. Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the Iraqi special forces told The Associated Press that his men were slowly pushing back IS fighters in the densely populated Mosul neighborhood of Zohour. He said their progress was hampered by IS suicide car bombs, several of which were targeted by coalition aircraft before they reached their intended targets. His men were in control of about half the neighborhood by Wednesday afternoon, he told AP.
According to reports, automatic fire, artillery and mortar was used during the fighting, which resulted in families fleeing the area to the safety centres set up by the government for displaced citizens. Aircraft and bombing were a common sight on the battlefield. By noon, the Iraq military forces had received reinforcement of about 100 men.
The slow progress of the Mosul campaign is due to the presence of some 1 million civilians inside the city, because of which the forces have avoided using massive power against the extremist group. On Tuesday, a UN spokesperson said that over 68,000 people have fled Mosul amid the ongoing military operation in the city.