Iraqi special forces say heavy fighting has broken out in Mosul’s eastern Tahrir neighborhood, where a suicide car bomber set off explosives that disabled an Abrams tank belonging to the Iraqi army.
Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil says the special forces now control 70 percent of the district, which is still full of most of its residents. The army is trying to evacuate them.
Fadhil says the troops have killed dozens of militants, and are advancing carefully to try spare civilians from getting caught in the crossfire.
In the same district, security forces arrested four IS militants, two Iraqis and two non-Iraqi Arabs who surrendered, locking the men in the back of a Humvee.
The men were blindfolded and had their hands bound behind them. Some wore traditional Arab clothes, called dishdasha, and others wore tracksuits.
A spokesman for an influential Shiite militia taking part in the Iraqi government’s operation to retake Mosul says his fighters have pushed deeper into areas west of the Islamic State-held city.
Jaafar al-Husseini of the Hezbollah Brigades says fierce clashes were underway Wednesday at the perimeter of the Tal Afar military airport. He did not elaborate.
The Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen TV broadcast footage showing thick black smoke rising from the airport as armored vehicles and troops were seen deploying nearby. The troops were also seen blowing up a speeding suicide car bomb before its driver managed to detonate the explosives’ load.
The Shiite militias are leading an assault to drive IS from Tel Afar, which had a majority Shiite population before it fell to the militants in the summer of 2014.
Iraqi forces are assessing the damage to the ancient site of Nimrud, south of Mosul, after it was retaken from the Islamic State group over the weekend.
Maj. Gen. Dhiaa al-Saadi, the deputy commander of Iraqi ground forces who oversaw the operation, says IS almost completely destroyed the town’s ancient Assyrian archaeological site. He said that even before he saw the site, he had heard by radio that “it was gone.”
As the operation to retake Mosul progresses, al-Saadi said he expects to find more ruined heritage sites.
Iraqi troops entered Nimrud on Sunday in what was the most significant gain in several days for government forces.
The late 1980s discovery of treasures in Nimrud’s royal tombs was one of the 20th century’s most significant archaeological finds. The government said militants, who captured the site in June 2014, destroyed it the following year.
Iraqi special forces have begun a new push deeper into the northern city of Mosul, backed by airstrikes but under attack by rockets and suicide bombers from the Islamic State group.
Troops have established a foothold in the city’s east, and drove northward Wednesday into the Tahrir neighborhood, where families left their houses to flee the fighting.
Artillery and airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition supported the advance, sending plumes of smoke into the air over the city.
Iraqi troops are converging from several fronts on Mosul, the country’s second largest city and the last major IS holdout in Iraq. The special forces have been the tip of the spear, driving the furthest into the city itself, but they are still fighting over neighborhoods in the city’s far east.