Clashes shake west Mosul after victory over IS declared

MOSUL, Iraq — Airstrikes, shelling and other heavy clashes shook a small sliver of western Mosul on Tuesday in renewed fighting, a day after the government declared victory over Islamic State militants in Iraq’s second-largest city.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, proclaimed the battle for Mosul to be a “civilian catastrophe,” with more than 5,800 noncombatants killed in the western part of the city. The top U.S. commander in Iraq rejected the group’s allegations, however, that the U.S.-led coalition violated international law.

In a sign that IS militants were still holding out in the shattered Old City, plumes of smoke rose as mortar shells landed near Iraqi troop positions and heavy gunfire rang out. Airstrikes pounded the edge of the neighborhood west of the Tigris River throughout the day.

On Monday, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “total victory” in Mosul, flanked by his senior military leadership at a small base in the city’s west.

The militants overran the northern city in summer 2014, when the extremists seized territory across Iraq and Syria. The campaign by Iraqi forces and the coalition to retake the city began in October 2016. The operation killed thousands of people, left whole neighborhoods in ruins and displaced nearly 900,000 from their homes.

A statement late Monday from IS said its fighters were still attacking Iraqi troops in the al-Maydan area of Mosul’s Old City, purportedly killing and wounding many and seizing weapons and ammunition.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a recorded video after al-Abadi’s declaration that the victory in Mosul did not eliminate IS from Iraq and “there’s still a tough fight ahead.”

Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said the coalition will continue to support its Iraqi partners, and he urged Iraqis to unite and prevent a return of the conditions that allowed the rise of the extremists.

In Baghdad, Shiite politician Karim al-Nouri echoed those remarks, urging the…

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