Destruction in fight to take west Mosul worse than east

American medical volunteers attend to a civilian casualty of the battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants at the the Samaritan's Purse field hospital in Bartella Iraq. Situated on the outskirts of Mosul the sta

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS Brett McGurk visited Ottawa Thursday for senior-level discussions with Canadian officials including ministers of foreign affairs, national defense and security, according to a news release of the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa Thursday.

ERBIL, Iraq Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel Islamic State from Mosul but face a "very complicated" urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, a US general told Reuters on Wednesday.

Iraqi forces control both main routes west of Mosul, limiting ISIS fighters' freedom of movement, he said. "This is something that is a despicable and cowardly tactic", he said.

He noted that there have already been some positive results for the people of Iraq as the fight against ISIS goes on. Iraqi Christians around Mosul celebrated Palm Sunday for the first time in three years, including at a church burned by ISIS in Qaraqosh.

The fact that the Iraqi government is making gains against IS militants illustrates how its intelligence apparatus has improved against IS, says Hisham al-Hashimi, a security analyst in Baghdad who advises the government on Sunni militant groups.

Colonel Dorrian said the fight in Western Mosul had been tough but said IS fighters had no escape. "Their ability and capability became stronger and more developed" since the jihadists shocked Iraqi security and intelligence forces with their lightning offensive in June 2104, says Mr. Hashimi. "Do not lose sight of the fact that even though the fighting is going to be very hard, this enemy is completely surrounded", Dorrian said.

Fighting is continuing between Iraqi forces and ISIL militants in western Mosul.

Federal police officer Sabhan al-Shweili said a number of suspects had been detained in recent weeks. "They aren't going anywhere - they will be defeated and the people of Mosul will be free".

Any addition of more United States ground troops to Syria will likely be far more controversial now, as the United States attacked Syrian government targets just last week, and the administration continues to talk up the idea that further attacks could happen in the near future. "But the outcome is very, very clear".

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