Thursday, December 22, 2016

Battle for Mosul: Triple Car Bomb Hits Market, 23 Are Dead
Indiscriminate mortar fire in eastern Mosul also claims the lives of four aid workers and at least seven civilians

MEE and agencies
Thursday 22 December 2016 10:34 UTC

A triple car bombing killed at least 23 people Thursday in a town recently retaken from the Islamic State group, near the jihadists' final stronghold of Mosul, Iraq's army said.

"A terrorist attack in the form of three car bombs at a market in Gogjali killed 15 civilians and eight police," a coordination centre for forces battling IS said in a statement reported by AFP.

Earlier four Iraqi aid workers and at least seven civilians were killed by random mortar fire as they queued to receive aid in two separate incidents in eastern Mosul, the United Nations said.

"According to initial reports, four aid workers and at least seven civilians queueing for emergency assistance in eastern Mosul city have been killed by indiscriminate mortar fire," Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said in a statement.

Grande condemned the attacks as a violation of humanitarian principles, saying that the two separate incidents took place within the last 48 hours, left 40 injuured as well.

"People waiting for aid are already vulnerable and need help. They should be protected, not attacked," she said. "All parties to the conflict - all parties - have an obligation to uphold international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians survive and receive the assistance they need."

The UN did not place blame on anyone for the attacks, but Islamic State (IS) militants retreating from the Iraqi military's offensive in the northern city have repeatedly shelled "liberated" areas, killing or wounding scores of residents fleeing in the opposite direction.

In a separate incident on Thursday, three vehicles carrying improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) killed at least two civilians and left 20 wounded including soldiers in Kokaji, an eastern suburb in Mosul, according to local police and a health official and a witness. The death toll is expected to rise.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack on the Kokaji suburb, which authorities said was retrieved from IS almost two months ago.

Amaq news agency, which supports IS, said in a statement circulated online that suicide bombers had targeted the army.

Dozens wounded each day

The Iraqi forces offensive in Mosul, backed by the US, has retaken a quarter of the city, but the Iraqi troops' advance has been slow and punishing. In 2014, IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground.

The battle for Mosul is the biggest in the 13 years of turmoil unleashed in Iraq by the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled former president Saddam Hussein and brought to power a government dominated by Iraq's Shia Muslim majority.

The authorities do not release figures for civilian or military casualties, but medical officials have said dozens of people are wounded each day in the Mosul battle.

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