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Iraqi Army Preparing To Retake Mosul

The Iraqi army says it is preparing military operations to retake western Mosul, the last urban stronghold in Iraq of so-called Islamic State.

The preparations follow a recent offensive which officials said on Wednesday had recaptured nearly all of the city’s east.

Counter-terror chief Talib Shaghati said special forces had retaken all eastern districts assigned to them. Some IS fighters remain holed up in north-eastern districts, he added.

Earlier reports suggested the army had retaken all of the city’s east. The jihadists remain in control of all of Mosul west of the Tigris river, including the warren-like streets of the old city, which present a challenge to government forces.

The army has made swift advances through eastern Mosul since re-launching its operation to retake the city last month.

The operation began in October, more than two years after the jihadists overran the city, but stalled amid heavy IS resistance. It is the Iraqi military’s largest operation in years, involving domestic security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen, and assisted by US-led coalition warplanes and military advisers.

Last Friday the army launched an operation to capture the Mosul University complex, used by IS militants as a base and, Iraqi officials said, a chemical weapons production site.

More than 100,000 people have fled their homes in and around Mosul and UN officials have warned that the figure is likely to rise as pro-government forces press further into the city.