Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces 'block key road to Tal Afar'

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on March 7 urged Islamic State militants in western Mosul to surrender promising fair trials to those who give up fighting.

Iraq was dropped from President Donald Trump's revised travel ban because of both the steps it is taking to better vet potential travellers and its cooperation in the fight to destroy Islamic State, the US State Department said.

The leader of the Islamic State [Daesh] terror group (banned in Russia) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive but is now not in the Iraqi city of Mosul, a USA defense official told reporters on Wednesday.

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She said the US -led anti-Daesh coalition is focused on eliminating the group's mid-level battlefield commanders rather than diverting efforts to kill or capture Baghdadi.

"I will not hesitate to strike terrorist sites in neighbouring countries, if they threaten the security of Iraq", Abadi said in a speech in north Iraq, footage of which was posted online.

The battle for the Old City may see some of the toughest fighting of the operation to retake west Mosul.

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The fighting in west Mosul has forced more than 50,000 people to flee, the International Organization for Migration said.

Daesh is being progressively squeezed in Iraq and Syria where parallel campaigns backed by the US -led coalition are eating into the territory once touted by the group as its "caliphate". "Mortar rounds fell on our roof and inside our yard", he added. The operation to retake west Mosul - IS's largest remaining urban stronghold - was launched on February 19, but the advance had slowed in the face of several days of bad weather until a renewed push began on Sunday.

Federal police said anti-IS forces were now setting up defences in recaptured areas of Mosul as they eyed the next phase. "There is still ISIS in the rest of the Euphrates river valley downstream that will have to be dealt with".

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