Golden Division soldiers waiting in an alley west Mosul (Reuters)
March 2 was another day of hard fighting in south Mosul. The Islamic State took advantage of a rainstorm to attack the Golden Division. Some fighters were hiding amongst displaced families to approach the frontlines before revealing themselves. The Golden Division is currently trying to secure the Wadi Hajar neighborhood. Reporting has been very inconsistent on how far they’ve gotten. On February 28 the district was unofficially declared freed, then said to be 80% under control on March 1, and then just 70% on March 3. Whatever the figure is, the neighborhood is still hotly contested.
Civilians continued to suffer during the battle. An airstrike by an unidentified force hit the Omar al-Aswad mosque in west Mosul. It was being used by IS, but there were also civilians in the area who were killed and wounded, although no numbers were divulged. IS gunfire and a car bomb left at least three dead and five wounded in west Mosul, and mortars on the east took the lives of two more and left 5 wounded.
To the southwest the army and Hashd were consolidating their recent gains. Yesterday the Badush Prison was taken. Today it was being secured by looking for IEDs and left behind IS fighters. After that is achieved the 9th, 15th, and 16th army divisions and the Hashd’s al-Abbas Division will take up their advance again eventually assaulting Mosul.
The residents of east Mosul had a rare visit by an American general. General Joseph Martin the ground commander of the U.S. Coalition took a tour with Iraqi forces of the liberated side of the city. Under the Obama administration the Americans took a low profile in Iraq announcing air strikes, but little else in an attempt to put the Iraqis first. The trip by Joseph may be part of a new tact to highlight the U.S.’s role more. Today Washington is Iraq’s largest military supplier, it is training Iraqi army and police units, providing air cover, artillery and advisers, and running large parts of the ISF’s supply train in Ninewa. The Trump administration could go a long way to improving its image in the country by pushing these operations more, and would help to counter the constant Iranian and pro-Tehran Hashd propaganda about the U.S. being behind the Islamic State.
US General John Martin talked with residents in east Mosul (Baghdad Post)
The new Mosul operation along with the harsh conditions is forcing out a huge number of people from the city. According to the International Organization for Migration there was 161,178 registered displaced on February 2 in Ninewa. That went to 176,556 on February 2, and then 191,826 by March 2. The U.N. said an average of 4,000 civilians were leaving the city each day, but it looked like that may be climbing as Iraq’s Displacement Ministry had 7,292 people fleeing on March 2. Besides the renewed combat, the people of west Mosul are living under horrid conditions. There are severe food and service shortages. Families are running out of food and going hungry. Many people were also forced out of their homes and moved to different parts of Mosul to be used as human shields by IS. All together that has led to a larger outflow than occurred during the east Mosul campaign.
The Washington Post was the latest to travel to the sinkhole mass grave south of Mosul. Locals call in Khasfa. The Islamic State used to round up locals and force them to watch executions at the site. There are fears that thousands of victims could be in the hole. Human Rights Watch was monitoring the site using satellites and reported that it was filled in July 2015, but there was still activity there up to November 2016. Finding out just how many people are there could be a long way off. The government doesn’t have the capacity to excavate the sinkhole and there are dozens of other graves that have not been looked at as well. There are also IEDs around the area, one of which took the life of a reporter from the Kurdish site Rudaw and 5 Hashd. It may be years before all of these sites are thoroughly investigated and the true toll of the Islamic State’s rule is revealed.
The struggle over Ninewa’s post-IS future is just beginning. The Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) Dohuk chief Abdul Khaliq Bapir called for an agreement with Baghdad over Mosul. He mentioned that security in the city was a top priority and a reason why talks should start. Nothing will happen however, until the city is liberated. Not only that but the Kurds are only one of many groups who want to have a say on the matter.
Finally, new casualty figures are available for the Mosul campaign. From October 17 to February 28 6,993 people have been killed and 22,168 wounded. 4,275 of the fatalities and 16,510 of the injured have been civilians. Since the government is not releasing official figures these should be considered a minimum.
Mosul Campaign Casualties 10/17/16-2/28/17
Adel, Loaa, “20 IS checkpoints disappeared west of Mosul: source,” Iraqi News, 3/2/17
Baghdad Post, "3 houses collapse due to booby-trapped blast in Mosul," 3/2/17
- “Footage: US commander takes a stroll in eastern Mosul streets,” 3/2/17
- “ISIS burns down Mosul military hospital,” 3/2/17
BBC, “Mosul battle: Civilians feared killed in ‘air strike’ on mosque,” 3/2/17
Buratha News, “9th Armored Division started clearing Badush prison northwest of Mosul,” 3/217
- "Recent developments in the field during Ninewa We Are Coming operation until 21:35 pm Thursday 02 03 2017," 3/2/17
Emergency Tracking Factsheet #18 – Mosul Operations From 17 October to 2 March,” 3/2/17
Fordham, Alice, “Civilians Flee As Iraqi Army Battles Remaining ISIS Fighters In Mosul,” NPR, 3/2/17
Hemid, Leyla, “Kurdish Official Warns about Mosul Security in Post-IS Phase,” Bas News, 3/2/17
Al Jazeera, “UN: 4,000 civilians flee Mosul each day amid fighting,” 3/2/17
Kalin, Stephen, "Iraqi forces in Mosul fight Islamic State counter-attack," Reuters, 3/2/17
Al Maalomah, "Control over 70% of Wadi Hajar in Right Bank of Mosul," 3/2/17
- "Security forces freed 80% of the Wadi Hajar area," 3/1/17
Morris, Loveday, Salim, Mustafa, “ISIS dumped bodies in a desert sinkhole. It may be years before we know the full scale of the killing,” Washington Post, 3/2/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, "UPDATED: Iraqi troops take over western Mosul district, village," Iraqi News, 2/28/17
Rudaw, "Iraqi forces weather car bombings to retake Jawsaq in west Mosul," 3/2/17
Saleh, Ibrahim, “7,000 Iraqis flee W. Mosul in last 24 hours: Official,” Anadolu Agency, 3/2/17
Shafaaq News, "Four civilians were killed in the Mansour district of West Mosul," 3/2/17
Sotaliraq, "Popular crowd thwarted Daesh attempt to open gaps west of Mosul," 3/2/17
Al Sumaria, "Killing two civilians and wounding seven others Daesh pounding of east Nineveh," 3/2/17