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Daesh frees dozens of Iraqis from Mosul jails

Iraqi civilians flee from the clashes between the Iraqi Army and Daesh terrorists, during the operation to retake Iraq's Mosul from Daesh in Mosul, Iraq on March 7, 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency ]
Iraqi civilians flee from the clashes between the Iraqi Army and Daesh terrorists in Mosul, Iraq on 7 March 2017 [Yunus Keleş / Anadolu Agency]

The Daesh extremist group has released dozens of prisoners held in jails in the districts of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that remain under its control, residents said today.

According to some analysts, the release of the prisoners on Friday is another sign that the militants are being overwhelmed by the US-backed Iraqi offensive that started on 17 October to dislodge them from Mosul, their last major city stronghold in Iraq.

However, when at risk of losing territory before, Daesh has often executed prisoners, so this reasoning has been disputed.

Daesh has lost most cities it captured in Iraq in 2014 and 2015. It declared a caliphate that also spanned parts of Syria from Mosul in 2014.

Among those released were people who had been caught selling cigarettes, violating a smoking ban, or in possession of a mobile phone and therefore suspected of communicating with the outside world, the residents said.

Iraqi forces dislodged Daesh from the eastern side of Mosul in early February, and on 19 February launched the offensive on the districts located west of the Tigris River, which bisects Iraq's second city.

State-run TV on Friday said about half western Mosul has been taken back from the militants who are besieged in the old city centre and districts to the north, but this has been disputed by observers.

The eastern half of Mosul, with far wider streets that allow for armoured vehicles to pass, took about four months to recapture. The western half, a far older part of the city, is restrictive and has been extensively booby-trapped by the militants.

One of the men released on Friday said two militants got him out of a basement where he was held captive with other people, blindfolded the group and drove them away in a bus.

"After driving a distance, we stopped and they told us to remove the blindfolds and then they said 'go, you are free,'" he said by phone, adding that about 25 prisoners were on the bus.

The man, who requested not to be identified, indicated that had spent two weeks in prison for selling cigarettes.

One Mosul resident said his brother had suddenly reappeared at the house on Friday after spending a month in captivity for possessing a mobile phone.

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