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Iraqi forces have retaken around 30 percent of west Mosul from Islamic State militants, a commander of the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) said on Sunday, as soldiers pushed further into the jihadists' territory.

"We're moving on the old bridge. and then we will free that area and hopefully in a few days we'll liberate the west side of Mosul", said one Iraqi captain.

In Syria, it still holds Raqqa city as its main stronghold, as well as most of Deir al-Zor province, but is losing ground to an array of separate enemies, including US -backed forces and the Russian-backed Syrian army.

Numerous mass graves date back to ISIS's initial occupation of territory in Iraq near major cities like Tikrit, Sinjar, and Mosul.

Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi of the CTS said "more than a third" of west Mosul was now under the control of security forces. Near Mosul, five strikes targeted fighting positions, weapons, vehicles, tactical units, ISIS-held buildings, two roadblocks, three vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, and two VBIED factories. "It has begun to lose command and control", he said, adding that around 17 out of 40 western districts had been retaken.

He said nine Daesh militants were killed in clashes with Iraqi forces in the city's western part. Thousands of Iraqi civilians have died in the fighting since October, and a total of more than 200,000 in total displaced from their homes. It means that ISIL fighters are trapped in what remains of the city that was the group's biggest stronghold in its cross-border, self-declared caliphate.

As Iraqi forces launched ground operations in eastern Mosul's al-Nafat and Dur al-Muwazafin neighborhoods on March 13, clashes continued with Islamic State fighters in central Mosul's Old City along Aleppo Street.

"The Federal Police and Rapid Response forces have liberated the area of al-Mahata [Arabic for station] that houses the Mosul train station and residential buildings", colonel Emad al-Bayati told dpa.

On Wednesday, bomb blasts ripped through a wedding party near Tikrit, which was recaptured by Iraqi forces in 2015, killing more than 20 people.

The desecration was recorded on video and widely published by Islamic State supporters, who protrayed it as part of their campaign to erase any cultural history which contravenes their extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam.

The group is expected to pose a continuing threat, reverting to insurgent tactics such as bombings.

Most of those executed were said to have been members of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, whom ISIL considers heretics.

Isis militants are trapped and contained in west Mosul after Iraqi forces gained control of the last road out of the city on Sunday (12 March) Iraqi and U.S. officials said.


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