Thousands flee western Mosul as Iraqi forces advance

Iraqi forces captured two neighbourhoods on the western side of Mosul on Sunday

Iraqi forces captured two neighbourhoods on the western side of Mosul on Sunday as they continued their push deeper into the city.

Thousands of people have been forced to flee the battle in to government-controlled areas, security officials told the Associated Press.

Reuters reports that Iraqi forces – backed by aerial support from the US-led international coalition – are aiming to capture a bridge across the river Tigris which would link the city's government-held eastern bank with the ongoing offensive against remaining militants in the west.

The latest push on Iraq’s second-largest city began last week with the city’s airport and adjacent military base now under government control.

Iraqi authorities declared Mosul's eastern half "fully liberated" from ISIS militants in January, three months after launching the operation to take back Iraq's second-largest city.

ISIS militants have deployed at least 10 suicide car bombs in the latest batch of fighting according to Iraqi authorities – although nine of them were blown up before reaching their targets.

The 10th reportedly killed two policemen and wounded five.

According to figures from the UN, about 750,000 civilians are believed to be trapped in their homes in western Mosul - one of several challenges expected to slow the advance of the Iraqi troops.

Iraqi commanders also expect the battle to become more difficult as they advance closer to the old city – as its narrow alleyways make it difficult for tanks and armoured vehicles to pass.

The Associated Press has reported that up to 3,000 people fled from the western side of the city on Sunday morning.