Mosul battle: Iraqi troops secure foothold in eastern outskirts

media captionThe BBC's Ian Pannell enters Mosul's outskirts with Iraq's special forces

Iraqi forces are securing their foothold in the city of Mosul, moving from house to house to clear areas of Islamic State (IS) militants.

Soldiers and special forces paused their advance on Wednesday, a day after pushing into the eastern outskirts.

A BBC journalist says they are moving with caution, amid fears of ambushes, secret tunnels and booby traps.

Meanwhile, an aid agency has warned that the lives of civilians in Mosul are "in grave danger".

Wolfgang Gressmann of the Norwegian Refugee Council said its staff were "now bracing... for the worst" as the battle for the city intensified.

"The lives of 1.2 million civilians are in grave danger, and the future of all of Iraq is now in the balance," he added.

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Elite Counter-Terrorism Service troops retook the eastern Kukjali area and reached the more built-up Karama district, on Tuesday, having entered the city for the first time since it was overrun by IS in June 2014.

The BBC's Ian Pannell, who was travelling with them, says those militants who chose to stand and fight were killed while others fled deeper into the city.

The Iraqi military said that units from the army's ninth armoured division and first division had also entered the Judaydat al-Mufti district, to the south-east, after capturing several outlying villages.

On Wednesday, a senior CTS officer, Brig Gen Haider Fadhil, told the Associated Press that they had paused their advance because poor weather was hampering visibility.

They are also waiting for reinforcements before attempting to push into the city centre, our correspondent says.

For now, troops are now moving from house to house, making the ground secure for the civilians who are still there, he adds.

image copyrightAFP
image captionVillagers returned to their homes with white flags after Iraqi forces arrived

Families who spoke to the BBC said they had been living in a state of fear under IS. For the women, in particular, there was a tentative sense of relief.

One said she had left her home only twice in the last two years and that she would have been beaten for even hanging her washing out on the roof.

Some 50,000 Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen are involved in the operation to take back Mosul, which began on 17 October.

The operation is receiving air and ground support from the US-led multinational coalition against IS.