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Hundreds flee as Iraq reclaims two more west Mosul districts

Pushing carts loaded with bags, babies and the elderly, hundreds of people fled Mosul today after Iraqi forces retook two more districts in the west of the city from Daesh.

After walking for miles, families were taken by bus from a government checkpoint in the south of the city to camps housing more than 410,000 people displaced since the offensive to retake Mosul began in October.

"We left with no water, food or electricity," said 63-year-old Abu Qahtan, the elder of a group of 41 people from five families. "We left with the clothes on our backs."

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Iraqi forces have taken much of Mosul from the militants who overran the city in June 2014. The military now controls the eastern districts and are making advances in the west.

Daesh fighters, holding out in the Old City, are surrounded in the northwest and are using booby traps, sniper and mortar fire to defend themselves.


On Saturday, artillery and gun fire could be heard as families arrived from Hay Al-Tanak district which they said was still half controlled by the militants.

Troops, backed by helicopters, were moving towards the Al-Nuri mosque where, nearly three years ago, Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi announced his self-declared caliphate spanning parts of Iraq and Syria.

A Reuters reporter, standing within sight of the mosque, saw heavy smoke in that area after an airstrike.

The US-trained Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), which has suffered horrendous casualties of thousands of men, has retaken the nearby Al-Thawra and Al-Saha districts, statements said.

CTS commander Major General Maan Saadi said his troops were linking up with Iraq's Federal Police moving in on the Old City from a different position.

"We are completing the encirclement of the terrorists in the Old City," he told Reuters.

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The Iraqi Federal Police are largely Iranian-sponsored Badr Organisation Shia jihadists, accused of perpetrating numerous human rights abuses, abductions, murderers and torture campaigns against Sunni Arab civilians.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped in western Mosul, where Iraqi forces are making slow progress against Daesh in what is a labyrinth of narrow streets.

As of 20 April, over half a million people have been displaced from Mosul, while 91,000 have returned, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said, citing government figures.

Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, is the militants' last urban stronghold in the country.

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