by Yesim Usluca
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
BAGHDAD, Iraq — On Tuesday, March 14th, the Iraqi government announced that its forces killed the commander of the Islamic State (“ISIS”).
ISIS’s commander, Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary, was killed in the Old City of Mosul during a fight for the Iron Bridge crossing the Tigris River, which is the terrorist group’s last stronghold in the country. Mr. al-Ansary was reportedly killed by federal police in an attempt to clear the Bab al-Tob district.
Iraqi officers reported that ISIS snipers were attempting to slow down the Interior Ministry’s Rapid Response Units on the Iron Bridge, which links eastern and western Mosul. The officers stated, however, that despite these attempts, the “elite forces” were still moving forward. The Brigadier General of the Rapid Response Unit, Mr. Mahdi Abbas Abdullah, stated that Iraqi forces are progressing towards the Iron Bridge by “taking out snipers hiding in the surrounding buildings[.]” Moreover, the Iraqi military is reportedly using armored vehicles and tanks to remove snipers who are “pinning down troops clearing areas around the bridge.”
Regaining control of the Iron Bridge would transfer the strategic advantage to Iraqi forces. At the moment, Iraq controls two of the pivotal bridges in the area. If captured, Iraqi forces would hold three of the five bridges in Mosul that span the Tigris River. All three bridges have already been damaged by either ISIS militants or air strikes led by the United States.
Mr. al-Ansary’s death was characterized as a “blow” to the ISIS militants after many leaders of the terrorist organization have already retreated from Mosul. The group is now reportedly defending “their shrinking area of control[.]” As of March 14th, Iraqi forces were within 330 feet of the Iron Bridge, and were expected to take over the bridge, and its surrounding area, by the end of the day. A Rapid Response Unit spokesperson stated that recapturing the bridge would “help further tighten the noose around [ISIS] fighters entrenched inside the old city[.]”
Over 600,000 civilians have been trapped in the area held by ISIS. Local residents poured out of western neighborhoods retaken by the government, thankful to be rescued from ISIS’s “grip.” They escaped the violent fighting taking place around their homes, carrying only suitcases, water bottles and “other possessions.” Some were reportedly pushing their children and ill elderly relatives in handcarts and wheelbarrows. They were ushered into trucks by soldiers to be taken to processing areas, and reported that food has been “scarce,” while adding that they have mostly been consuming “water mixed with tomatoes.”
For more information, please see: