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Sunday, January 15, 2017 guardian.co.tt
Iraqi forces fight IS at Mosul
University, take areas along Tigris
Iraqi special forces drove back
Islamic State militants in the stra-
tegic Mosul University campus
yesterday while elite police units
took over large areas along the Ti-
gris river, military officials said.
The head of Iraq's Counter Ter-
rorism Service (CTS) said security
forces were close to recapturing the
entire east bank of the Tigris, which
bisects Mosul from north to south, a
gain that will bring at least half of Is-
lamic State's last major stronghold in
Iraq under their control.
Iraqi forces made rapid advances the
day before in a nearly three-month
US-backed offensive to recapture
Mosul, loss of which would probably
spell the end of the Iraqi side of the
ultra-hardline group's self-styled ca-
liphate, declared in 2014.
Capture of the eastern bank of the
river will allow the military to begin
attacks on western Mosul, which Is-
lamic State still fully holds. The mil-
itants have fought back fiercely with
car bombs and snipers, and have used
civilians as cover.
An air raid during the week target-
ing a senior IS militant killed up to 30
people, residents said late on Friday.
CTS forces battled IS fighters at the
university yesterday in a second day of
"There are still clashes. We entered
the university and cleared the techni-
cal institute, dentistry and antiquities
departments," Lieutenant General Ab-
delwahab al-Saadi of the CTS told a
Reuters reporter in the complex.
"In the coming hours it will be lib-
erated completely," he said.
CTS troops had gathered in the uni-
versity canteen. As they unfurled a map
of the area, a suspected Islamic State
drone flew overhead and they shot at it.
The Iraqi forces also found chem-
ical substances IS had used to try to
make weapons, CTS commander Sami
The United Nations says the mil-
itants seized nuclear materials used
for scientific research from the uni-
versity when they overran Mosul and
vast areas of northern Iraq and eastern
Syria in 2014.
Islamic State fighters have used
chemical agents including mustard
gas in a number of attacks in Iraq and
Syria, US officials, rights groups and
Seizing the university would be a
crucial strategic gain and allow Iraqi
forces to advance more quickly towards
the Tigris in the city's northeast, mil-
itary officials have said.
Parallel advances in the southeast
of the city yesterday, led by elite rapid
response units, put Iraq's federal police
in control of large areas along the river
bank, a spokesman said.
"The Yarimja area...has been liber-
ated, a large number of Daesh (Islamic
State) elements were killed, and the
rest fled to the right-hand side (west-
ern bank)," Lieutenant Colonel Abdel
Amir al-Mohammedawi told Reuters.
Forces had stopped suicide car bomb
attacks by firing at them during their
advance, and the federal police also
captured a field hospital the militants
had been using, he said.
The federal police forces were backed
by the Iraqi army's 9th armoured divi-
sion and by US coalition air support,
A separate military statement said
the federal police in the area also cap-
tured a highway linking Mosul to the
city of Kirkuk, to the southeast.
Improved coordination between
different military branches, plus new
tactics and better defences against the
car bombs has helped them gain new
momentum against Islamic State in
Mosul since the turn of the year, U.S.
and Iraqi military officials say.
Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati
told state television the entire eastern
bank of the Tigris would soon be under
"Hopefully today we will celebrate
the end of Daesh," he added.
Advances had slowed in late Novem-
ber and December as troops became
bogged down in tough urban warfare
after entering the city itself, and Is-
lamic State fought from densely-pop-
ulated residential areas.
An air raid targeting a senior Islamic
State militant on Thursday killed up to
30 people in a western Mosul district,
residents said. It was not immediately
clear if the strike was carried out by
Iraqi forces or the US-led coalition.
US to stick to
German Chancellor An-
gela Merkel yesterday
urged the United States
to stick to multilateral
cooperation, saying a
trend towards protec-
tionism was a risk to
The United States is
Germany's most import-
ant trading partner and
the protectionist rheto-
ric of US President-elect
Donald Trump has un-
nerved exporters in Eu-
rope's biggest economy.
Germany holds the
presidency of the G20
leading economies this
year, a platform Merkel
wants to use to safe-
guard multilateral co-
Speaking after a
meeting of senior mem-
bers of her center-right
CDU party in the west-
ern German town of
said all countries were
better off if they worked
together instead of iso-
A good example was
the international re-
sponse after the glob-
al financial crisis that
started in the United
States in 2008, Merkel
"The response to the
financial crisis was not
a response that was
based on isolation, but
a response that was
based on cooperation,
on common rules of
the financial markets,"
Asked when she
would meet Trump for
the first time, Merkel
said a meeting was pos-
sible during a summit
of the Group of Seven
leading economic pow-
ers, which takes place
in Sicily in May, and the
G20 summit that Ger-
many is hosting in July.
In her weekly podcast,
Merkel said the German
economy was doing "rel-
atively well" but should
not rest on its laurels.
She urged companies to
adapt to the challenge of
"There are also in-
ternational risks. We
see protectionist ten-
dencies," Merkel said,
without naming Trump.
Icy weather in Europe causes more hardship and chaos
Much of Europe continues to
be hit by icy weather with strong
winds and powerful storms causing
traffic chaos, power cuts and travel
Electricity supplies to nearly 350,000
homes in France were temporarily cut,
while severe flood warnings were in
place on England's east coast.
As Germany prepares for more heavy
snow, forecasters say the worst of the
weather is heading eastwards.
Freezing conditions continue in the
Balkans and Turkey.
The World Meteorological Organiza-
tion (WMO) said the cold weather was
responsible for countless road accidents
and school closures in addition to can-
It also warned about the impact of
the cold weather on the homeless and
Officials are especially worried about
the plight of these groups of people in
Greece and Serbia.
Thousands of migrants in the Balkans
live in tents with little heating.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR,
earlier said several migrants had died
from cold and exhaustion in Bulgaria.
Some countries are suffering some
of the heaviest snowfall in many years,
with the Danube river and Bosporus sea
strait closed to shipping.
"Montenegro, Serbia, the republic
of Macedonia and Bulgaria were much
colder than normal, with temperatures
as low as -15C over five consecutive
days," the WMO said.
"The surrounding countries—Italy,
Greece, Turkey and Romania were 5 to
10C colder than normal for the time
The Severe Weather Europe Facebook
page has images of vehicles enveloped
by snow in Hungary, cars abandoned on
the side of the road because of freezing
rain in Italy, treacherously high seas in
the Faroe Islands and video of a pow-
erful blizzard in the Swiss Alps.
In France, where coastal winds
reached 146km/h (90.5mph), a woman
died when a tree was blown over near
the Mediterranean resort of Nice.
Another woman in Albania was found
dead outside her home in freezing con-
ditions in the southern town of Saranda.
Drivers in Germany have been
warned of treacherous conditions on
some roads, because of snow and black
ice. Three motorists have died in crash-
es in Bavaria.
Meanwhile, flood defences have been
reinforced on Belgium's coast.
The cold snap across Europe has
claimed more than 65 lives.
Members of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) gather at the University of Mosul during a battle with Islamic
State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, yesterday. REUTERS
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