MOSUL, Iraq — Elite Iraqi troops battled the Islamic State group in the streets of Mosul Friday, as the UN reported jihadists had executed dozens of people inside the city for alleged “treason”.
With IS also on the defensive in neighboring Syria, US-backed forces pressed an advance on jihadist bastion Raqa after a sandstorm eased.
High winds in the desert separating the Syrian Kurdish-Arab militia alliance from the jihadists’ Euphrates Valley stronghold had slowed their advance Thursday as visibility plummeted.
Iraqi forces had also regrouped after meeting stronger than expected resistance from IS on the east bank of the Tigris River running through Mosul after thrusting into the built-up area last week.
Commanders of Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) said troops were advancing on two eastern neighbourhoods of the city.
In a house near the front line, Staff Lieutenant Colonel Muntadhar Salem clutched a radio in one hand and a tablet computer in the other with a map showing recaptured buildings.
As the troops waited for orders to push forward, incoming mortar rounds shook curtains on the windows.
Later Friday, the fighting eased off, although CTS forces still occasionally fired mortar rounds towards IS positions in eastern Mosul’s Arbajiyah area.
IS fighters reportedly shot dead more than 60 people this week and hung some of the bodies from poles inside Mosul after claiming they had collaborated with Iraqi troops, the UN human rights office said Friday.
“On Tuesday, ISIL (IS) reportedly shot and killed 40 civilians in Mosul city after accusing them of ‘treason and collaboration’”, it said.
On Wednesday, IS slaughtered another 20 people at the Ghabat Military Base in northern Mosul after accusing them of “leaking information”, it added.