Iraqi forces captured the Hurriya Bridge March 6 and prematurely claimed to have taken the government complex, but were ambushed by the Islamic State (BBC)
March 6 the Iraqi forces (ISF) were moving into the middle of west Mosul. First the Federal Police (FP) and Rapid Reaction Division (RRD) captured the Hurriya Bridge. This was the second span across the Tigris that the ISF secured. All of the bridges were knocked out by the U.S. led Coalition during the battle for east Mosul to hinder the Islamic State’s movement within the city. The FP and RRD also seized a number of government buildings and public works in the Danadan neighborhood. The Golden Division was fighting in the western outskirts and center of the western section of the city and seized Samoud. Finally, Dour al-Sokkar near the Ghazlani Camp just outside of Mosul was also freed.
On March 7 there were more advances. On the western fringe of the city Tal Ruman was declared freed on March 6, and then fully cleared the next day. The FP and RRD liberated Dandan, Dawas, and Mohana, and attacked Nabi Sheet once again. Dandan had been liberated two times before. The Golden Division on the other hand, attacked Shuhada, Muallemin, and Okaidat, and was still fighting in Mansour. The ISF claimed it was in Shuhada more than a week before it had even reached the area. The Iraqis have a bad habit of exaggerating how far they have moved ahead.
March 7 also witnessed a major setback. The police forces declared they seized the government complex near the Tigris River early in the morning. The RRD launched a surprise night attacked and rushed to the government center followed by the Federal Police. An FP general told the press he wanted to catch the Islamic State unaware. What the police did not do was clear their route. Just before noon IS began counter attacking and surrounded the police. Federal Police reinforcements had to be sent in to fight there way through the insurgent lines and rescue the trapped officers. The Federal Police commander wanted a propaganda victory by hoisting the Iraqi flag over the government buildings and sacrificed an unknown amount of his men for a short lived victory, which ended in a retreat. A similar fiasco occurred in the battle for east Mosul when the army’s 9th Division made a quick thrust towards a major hospital complex only to find out it was a trap set by the militants, and had to be saved costing a large number of casualties. The Iraqi forces are currently maintaining a multi-front operation against Mosul, but still suffer from these occasional poor choices.
To the southwest the 9th Division and the Al-Abbas Division of the Hashd entered the Badush area. They captured part of the prison there, which was the site of hundreds of executions by the Islamic State. As happens too many times the army claimed it had seized the prison a week ago. Two towns in the district were cleared as well. The army and Hashd are trying to cut off Mosul from the west, and will eventually push into the city itself.
Out in the west the Hashd said that Tal Afar had been completely isolated and they were preparing to take it. The fate of the town however, remains up in the air with Iraqi officials constantly switching back and forth between the Hashd and the ISF liberating the town. Despite all the announcements nothing is likely to happen until the battle for Mosul is finished.
Civilians are taking the brunt of the fighting. Unidentified and Coalition air strikes were blamed for the deaths of 116 people and 140 wounded. Iraqi artillery cost the lives of 5 more. Islamic State mortars left 7 fatalities and 26 injured. The insurgents executed 35 people, and a mass grave was discovered in east Mosul with 50 victims of IS.
The Golden Division’s Abdul Ghani al-Assadi and Ninewa Operations commander General Najim Jabouri claimed that the United States had provided equipment that jammed IS drones. General Saadi was quoted as saying the number of drone strikes dropped from 72 to 52 and then eventually down to 0. Ironically on March 8 video was released of General Saadi being buzzed by an IS drone in Mosul so this story appears to be an exaggeration. These devices have been more of a nuisance than a real threat to the ISF. Their most important use was to spot targets for IS mortars and car bombs.
The Americans noted that on the tactical level the fight for west Mosul is still a hard slog, but strategically the insurgents are defeated. According to Colonel John Dorrian the Islamic State is not able to stop the advance of the Iraqi forces. General Matthew Isler added that the militant’s defenses were not well organized or coordinated. U.S. statements have been cautiously optimistic about the Mosul campaign.
Huge numbers of people are still flowing out of west Mosul. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) talked with a woman who fled the city because her family had been starving for a month. She was feeding her kids water and flour, sometimes with some tomato paste added. Over 50,000 have left the western section of the city pushing the total number of registered displaced to 211,572. These people are overflowing the camps set up for them. The ones to the south of Mosul are full, and the ones in Kurdistan are almost at capacity The UNHCR just opened a new camp 20 kilometers to the east of Mosul to try to accommodate the new outflow. When the Mosul campaign started in October 2016 the government told people to stay in their homes because neither it nor the aid agencies had the money or capacity to help them. Now their resources are being strained with no relief in sight.
The pro-Iran Hashd made their weekly attack upon the Americans. Asaib Ahl Al-Haq spokesman Jawad Talabawi accused the United States of dropping supplies to the Islamic State in Mosul and evacuating its senior leaders out of the city. He went on to state that the Hashd had stopped the U.S. from doing the same in Tal Afar. Tehran’s allies in Iraq have been making these types of statements since 2014 to try to undermine Washington’s position in the country.
The Christian Science Monitor had an uplifting story of how Mosul was trying to rebuild via education. While the Islamic State ran the city for two years very few kids got an education. Those that went to school were taught IS’s form of Islam and prepared for war as much of the curriculum used martial terms such as counting guns or bullets for math. Now classrooms are overflowing. This is the start to what promises to be a long process of trying to make up for what the insurgents did to Mosul, and Iraqi society in general. A former professor from Mosul University thought it would take 5-10 years to heal all the damage that was done.
Finally the brewing political disputes over the future of Ninewa continued. A parliamentary (MP) told New Sabah that the Arab parties were opposed to former Governor Atheel Nujafi and current Vice President Osama Nujafi’s plans to make the province a federal region. The MP went on to say that the Nujafis were working with the Kurds to fragment Ninewa. These arguments will only increase as more time passes as there are a plethora of forces vying to control Ninewa ranging from the Nujafis to Kurdish President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to Prime Minister Haidar Abadi to the standing provincial government to Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to Turkey itself to the various minority groups that reside there.
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Airwars, "March 6th 2017 Railway station, Right side of Mosul, Nineveh province, Iraq"
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- “Federal Police are preparing to storm the government compound in the right bank of Mosul,” 3/6/17
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