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Islamic State launches new wave of suicide bombings as Mosul battle rages on

Civilians are risking their lives to flee the city.

Mideast Iraq Mosul Men are held by Iraqi national security agents as oil fields south of Mosul. Source: Felipe Dana/PA Images

IRAQI FORCES ARE battling jihadists inside Mosul for the third day running today as civilians risk their lives dodging bombs and snipers to slip out of the city.

The so-called Islamic State group put up fierce resistance to defend the city it seized more than two years ago and also claimed responsibility for deadly suicide attacks further south.

The elite Counter-Terrorism Service has been spearheading the attack on the eastern front of the three-week-old offensive on Mosul, Iraq’s largest military operation in years.

The jihadists have given up some of its bastions in Iraq and Syria with barely a fight in recent months but its men began the defence of their last Iraqi hub with anger.

“Resistance is very heavy and they have suffered major losses,” CTS Staff Lieutenant General Abdelghani al-Assadi told AFP. said of IS.

Source: BBC News/YouTube

Soldiers from the army’s 9th armoured division also battled jihadists in the southeastern neighbourhood of Intisar as forces attempted to increase their footprint in eastern Mosul.

They first entered the streets of Mosul on Friday and were met with what one officer described as stiffer than expected resistance from IS jihadists.

Perilous escape

The assault allowed some civilians to flee the city, most of whose million-plus residents remained trapped inside, sheltering both from their jihadist rulers and incoming fire from government forces and US-led coalition aircraft.

Some of the first civilians to manage to escape the city proper arrived at a camp near Khazir in Kurdish-controlled territory on Saturday.

Abu Sara dodged gunfire, bombs, mortar rounds and coalition strikes to flee his neighbourhood of Al-Samah, such was his desperation to leave what many civilians who escaped IS rule describe as an open-air prison.

“We walked several miles, taking with us only the clothes we were wearing and white flags we waved the entire way,” said the 34-year-old, wearing a brown fake leather jacket.

Mideast Iraq Mosul A displaced man riding in a convoy of cars cuts his beard as he waits near a checkpoint. Source: Felipe Dana/PA Images

While the corridors called for by aid groups to allow the safe passage of civilians have yet to materialise, arrivals in the displacement camps dotting the area have increased markedly.

The government said it had taken in 9,000 displaced people in the past two days.

Despite IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi giving his fighters a pep talk on Thursday, urging them not to retreat from Mosul in a rare audio message, the outcome of the battle was in little doubt.

Suicide bombings

The jihadists, with an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 fighters in Mosul, could hold out for weeks and inflict heavy casualties on government forces but they are outnumbered about 10 to one.

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The group’s ability to hit back with ground offensives elsewhere appears to be gone and IS has responded with a string of diversionary attacks, including spectacular operations in Kirkuk and Rutba.

Earlier today, it claimed responsibility for three suicide attacks in Tikrit and Samarra, the two main cities in Salaheddin province north of Baghdad.

Iraqi officials spoke of only two bombers, one who detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at the southern entrance to Tikrit, and another who blew up an ambulance in Samarra.

Mideast Iraq Mosul Qayara, south of Mosul. Source: Felipe Dana/PA Images

At least 18 people were killed and wounded more than 30 were wounded in the two cities north of Baghdad, officials said.

One bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at the southern entrance to Tikrit, while the other blew up an ambulance in Samarra, the officials said.

IS identified two of the bombers as “Al-Moslawi” — a nom de guerre that would indicate they were from Mosul, though it could be a propaganda attempt to link militants from other areas with the ongoing battle for Iraq’s second city.

On Friday, an Islamic State linked proganga outlet claimed that an Irish suicide bomber had carried out an attack as part of its efforts to keep control of Mosul.

© – AFP 2016

Read: Isis leader ‘calls for fight to the death’ in audio recording >

Read: Iraqi forces move to cut off Islamic State militant supply lines >

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