Civilians, IS fighters killed in west Mosul mosque strike, residents say

Maj. Gen. Haider al-Maturi of the Federal Police Commandos Division told The Associated Press that IS terrorists dispatched at least six suicide vehicle bombs, which were all destroyed before reaching the troops.

Neighboring houses were damaged or collapsed because of the blast, they said without giving a precise estimate of the casualties as their moves are restricted by the militants.

ISIL, which holds the majority of west Mosul, has periodically used rudimentary chemical weapons in the course of its more than two-year war with Iraqi forces.

Al Jazeera's Stefanie Dekker, reporting from a refugee camp in Khazer, east of Mosul, said that IDPs there cited the "intensity of coalition air strikes" as one of the main reasons for leaving their homes.

Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat later said in a statement that police - presumably along with forces from the Rapid Response Division - had advanced to within "dozens of metres" of the government buildings in Al-Dawasa.

On Feb. 19, Iraqi forces began the offensive across the Tigris River into districts on the western side of Mosul.

The operations in the west of Mosul were aimed at severing the road between western Mosul and the IS-held town of Tal Afar to prevent the extremist militants from resupplying or retreating as they come under pressure from Iraqi forces advancing from the south.

Defeating Islamic State in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi military believes several thousand militants, including many who travelled from Western countries, are hunkered down among the remaining civilian population, which aid agencies estimated to number 750,000 in western Mosul at the start of the latest offensive.

"The use of chemical weapons is absolutely prohibited under global humanitarian law".

"There was a hiss of gas, and then we were suffocating, " said Zeina Fawzi, who was sitting in the kitchen with her husband when a rocket exploded outside the door.

The militants, who still control much of the western side of the city, have regularly bombarded the eastern side with mortars and rockets, causing misery for civilians living there.

About 10,000 people are fleeing each day, according to Jassim Mohammed al-Jaff, Iraq's minister for migration and displacement. More than 200,000 people have been forced from their homes since the operation began.

Two of the patients being treated had been discharged, he said.

Material from the Washington Post was included in this report.

  • Leroy Wright