Iraqi forces in Mosul see deadliest urban combat since World War II

A number of air raids have resulted in high civilian casualties.

"We are in the final stage of liberating Mosul and our forces are exerting their utmost efforts to protect the civilians", Abadi said at a joint press conference with Guterres after their meeting.

In a related development, Daesh militants clashed with members of the Hashd al-Ashaeri - a pro-government militia composed of Sunni-Arab tribal volunteers - in the Al-Shura district some 45 kilometers south of Mosul, Army Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Salam al-Jubouri told Anadolu Agency.

He said they had for the first time on Wednesday caught jihadists on video who "forced civilians into a building, killing one who resisted, and then used this building against the CTS (Iraqi counter-terrorist forces)".

Islamic State fighters have begun forcing civilians in Mosul into buildings rigged to explode, according to top USA commanders, and the new tactic could explain why scores of people died in the Iraqi city recently. Another possibility that was being examined was that the militants filled the building with explosives, he said.

Iraqi security forces have faced stiff resistance from ISIS fighters as they push into the historic section of western Mosul that is riddled with narrow streets and densely populated areas.

General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told a congressional committee that there has been no change in the rules of engagement regarding airstrikes targeting ISIS in Iraq and Mosul.

The willingness of Iraqi armed forces to press ahead with the offensive despite heavy casualties is a remarkable turnaround after they collapsed almost three years ago when the Islamic State invaded the country. The militants seized US -supplied arms and ammunition, while Iraq's military melted away nearly without firing a shot.

Votel also told the committee that almost 800 Iraqi security forces have been killed and 4,600 wounded in the increasingly brutal battle to retake Mosul from ISIS extremists that began last fall. Iraqi forces on Wednesday pushed further toward the old city center of the western side of Mosul amid fierce clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants, the Iraqi military said. He and others have said the munitions used by the US that day should not have taken the entire building down, suggesting that militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted other explosives.

Scrocca said the video would be released to the public as soon as it is declassified.

"We don't need to use a 500-hundred-pound bomb which is going to destroy a building if we can use a Hellfire missile which is just going to blow out a room and kill some fighters", said Scrocca.

The United States has begun a formal investigation into the March 17 strike and other air attacks in that neighbourhood where civilians were injured or killed. "We are fed up", said Saqr Younis, who fled to Mosul when Islamic State arrived in his village in 2014.

  • Leroy Wright