IRBIL, Dec 28, (Agencies): Iraq’s army recently discovered several labs for manufacturing explosives and a large network of underground tunnels used by the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Mosul, defense ministry said Tuesday. Upon an important tip-off, the Iraqi military intelligence forces were able to locate the abandoned labs and tunnels while carrying out military operations to liberate Nineveh governorate from the terrorist group, the ministry said in a statement.
The forces found six labs that manufacture IEDs, bombs, and mortar shells in Kokjla city in eastern Mosul, it said, adding that all explosive items were made to target military forces and innocent civilians, including the internally displaced persons. IS elements used the large tunnels as their hideout and shelter, and for their transportation and escape, the ministry added, noting that all tunnels were equipped with electricity and other necessities. Meanwhile, five IS operatives were killed by Iraqi police while trying to infiltrate into the city of Mosul, said a security source Wednesday.
Iraqi police General Raed Shaker said in a statement that the IS members were killed while they tried to sneak into south of Mosul. The police assault resulted in the destruction of a vehicle owned by the IS operatives, said General Shaker. Since launching an operation to free Mosul from IS on Oct 17, the Iraqi army — along with allies — have secured and reclaimed several towns and neighborhoods in the city.
Residents of Mosul said Wednesday that an airstrike disabled the city’s last functioning bridge across the Tigris River, forcing residents to cross the river in boats and further disrupting the IS group’s movement. The residents, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity fearing for their safety, said the airstrike happened at dawn Monday. Iraqi and US-led international coalition officials were not available to comment.
Activists from inside Mosul published pictures Tuesday night of the metal bridge, known as the Old Bridge, showing its twisted girders sinking into the water as boats were seen ferrying the residents from both banks. The bridge, which was built during the reign of King Ghazi in the 1930s, is considered one of the city’s iconic landmarks.
The northern city of Mosul had five bridges spanning the Tigris River, which runs through the center of the city. Four of them have now been bombed in airstrikes since the massive government military operation began on Oct 17, while one was disabled weeks before the operation began.
The Tigris River runs through the center of Mosul, and until now most of the fighting has been on the eastern bank. Iraqi forces are expected to use pontoon bridges when they reach the river as they have done in previous military operations in other areas. Fighting on all fronts, but centered mainly on Mosul’s eastern edge, has slowed recently as suicide car bombings, snipers and concern over the safety of civilians have hampered the Iraqi troops’ advance toward the city center.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said IS militants have launched more than 900 car bombs against Iraqi troops so far during the Mosul operations, but didn’t give details on how many were driven by suicide bombers or were blown up before reaching their targets. Al-Abadi added that the offensive “is continuing … God willing, there will be good news in the coming days.” Mosul, about 225 miles (360 kms) northwest of Baghdad, is Iraq’s second- largest city and the last major IS urban bastion of their self-styled caliphate in the country. It fell into the hands of IS militants during their June 2014 onslaught that left the group in control of large swaths of northern and western Iraq. Gunmen have kidnapped an Iraqi female journalist after posing as members of the security forces and bursting into her home in Baghdad, authorities said on Tuesday.