Rapid Reaction Division moving through the narrow streets of West Mosul (Reuters)
Fighting remained focused around the Old City section of west Mosul. Sanaa was attacked, while Naft was freed. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division were trying to capture the entrance to the Iron Bridge that crosses the Tigris. Those police forces were also clearing the areas of Bab al-Tob there were taken yesterday; going house-to-house as there were still IS elements left there. Advances in Mosul have slowed down due to poor weather, but more importantly, the dense layout of the Old City area. To the west of the city two more towns were taken by the 16th Division, which just entered the fight two days ago. The Iraqi forces (ISF) have kept up a steady and even advance throughout most of the new campaign with good coordination between the police in the east and the Golden Division moving up the middle and east. This showed that the Iraqis have learned from the east Mosul battle when the Golden Division was initially sent into the city on its own due to political pressure from Baghdad, and when other units were eventually sent in there was a lack for coordination for several weeks.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) visited several detention facilities in Hamam al-Alil and Qayara south of Mosul and found them overcrowded and in poor condition. HRW saw 1,269 prisoners there. Many detainees are being held incommunicado because there are not enough judges to review their cases. At the same time, at Qayara there were around 300 men who had been cleared by a magistrate but were being held anyway due to objections by the National Security Service. The jails were so crowded that people could not lay down to sleep. Baghdad recently sent a committee to review the facilities and agreed to send 20 more interrogators, 10 of which had arrived at the start of March, to try to relieve the overcrowding. The Iraqi authorities are being overwhelmed having to screen all the people coming out of Mosul and the surrounding towns. The process has been continuously criticized for all the different groups involved, the lack of due process, and the denial of rights. Even in regular conditions Iraq’s legal and prison systems are largely dysfunctional. When under stress like it is now it barely works.
Another mass grave containing victims of the Islamic State was found in the Badush district. An estimated 160 bodies were uncovered in the town of Rihaniya. They were thought to be mostly members of the security forces from surrounding towns that were executed. Every time an area is taken from IS these horrific sites are uncovered.
While there is a huge flood of people coming out of west Mosul, others are still leaving the east. The United Nations noted that this was especially true in the northeast which is still under IS mortar fire, and there is fear of IS infiltration. Some people also sheltered in abandoned homes during the fighting, and now have to leave that the owners have returned, but have nowhere to go. Throughout the campaign there has been a constant flow of people in and out of the city, and this is just another example of that continuing process.
Finally, CNN reported that the insurgents infamous destruction of the Mosul Museum and historic Nimrod site were mostly to cover the group’s real purpose. Most of the items destroyed were large replicas, especially in the museum. IS has done this in several sites in Iraq and Syria claiming that it was destroying the unIslamic past of the region. What the organization was really after were the real artifacts like those contained in the vaults, which were sold as another fund raising source.
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