Middle East

Iraq: retaken Mosul towns still battle-stricken, await aid

  • Children welcome Iraqi special forces regaining control of Mishraq neighborhood from Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

    Children welcome Iraqi special forces regaining control of Mishraq neighborhood from Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)  (The Associated Press)

  • An Iraqi soldier patrols as civilians return to their houses after Iraqi special forces take full control of the Mishraq neighborhood after fight against the Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

    An Iraqi soldier patrols as civilians return to their houses after Iraqi special forces take full control of the Mishraq neighborhood after fight against the Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)  (The Associated Press)

  • A woman stands outside her house as she watches Iraqi special forces in the Mishraq neighborhood, recenlt liberated from Islamic State militant rule in Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

    A woman stands outside her house as she watches Iraqi special forces in the Mishraq neighborhood, recenlt liberated from Islamic State militant rule in Mosul, Iraq, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)  (The Associated Press)

The bodies of two dead Islamic State fighters have been lying on the sidewalk in front of Muhammad Jassim's house in eastern Mosul for the past week. Both of the corpses were burned, abused and decapitated, one was partially covered by a pastel floral bed sheet.

"This isn't something we want our children to see," Jassim said, coming out into the street to approach a group of Iraqi special forces officers touring the recent territorial gains. "I asked them to please take the bodies away, the smell is terrible."

As Iraqi forces settle into a routine of slow, steadier progress inside Mosul, more civilians remain trapped living along front lines for longer. Jassim's Mishraq neighborhood was declared liberated from IS nearly a week ago, but remains too dangerous for most aid groups to visit as it lies just a few hundred meters from ongoing clashes.

Thursday, a mortar landed across the street from Jassim's home and killed three of his neighbors.

As the operation to retake Mosul enters its third month, Iraqi forces control two pockets of territory in Mosul: a cluster of neighborhoods on the city's southeast held by the Iraqi army's 9th division and neighborhoods on the city's east held by the special forces.

"We've received nothing," Jassim said. Around the corner from his home a group of men filled plastic buckets with water from a burst pipe in a crater left by an airstrike.

Another resident, Younis Ali, ran up to the officers asking for heating fuel or electricity. Families on Ali's street have begun collecting scraps of wood and cardboard to burn for heat as temperatures have repeatedly dropped below zero in Mosul over the past week.

As Iraqi special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi toured the area Friday, he kissed babies for a cluster of television cameras, posed for mobile phone selfies and promised the residents swift improvements.

"We want people to know that this area is safe, that the military is here now," al-Saadi said, but he admitted that he expected progress to continue at a slow pace.

Iraqi forces have repeatedly faced punishing IS counterattacks in Mosul's dense residential neighborhoods, after swift advances left the Iraqi forces vulnerable.

"We are so thankful for these soldiers," Jassim said of the half dozen black armored Humvees, "but what we really need now is a medical center."