Anti-U.S. rebels are fighting pitched battles with Iraqi forces in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.
The guerrillas are now in almost complete control of half of Mosul, on the left bank of the Tigris River.
Residents say the fighters have boosted their presence on the right bank of the Tigris as well, in the hope of having the entire city for themselves.
After a short intervention, American troops have withdrawn from the city and Iraqi troops are finding it extremely hard to keep the resistance under control.
The city’s left bank is now as lawless as some of the most restive neighborhoods of Baghdad such as Dora. There, Iraqi troops with the help of U.S. Marines are struggling to bring order, but to no avail.
Kidnappings and killings have increased dramatically in the city. The violence is mainly aimed at the Kurdish, Christian and Shiite minorities, as the city is predominantly Sunni Arab.
The city’s five bridges are closed to traffic to prevent the movement of guerrillas from one bank of the Tigris to the other.
But the closure is also hampering the logistical efforts of Iraqi troops. Iraqi security and police personnel on the left bank have all but abandoned their positions and even their uniforms.
Even the well-armed and entrenched Kurdish Peshmerga (fighters) are hardly capable of protecting themselves, and there are reports that the Kurds are considering abandoning the city altogether.
The guerrillas have blown up the well-guarded offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, President Jalal Talabani’s faction, which has one of the best trained and armed militias in the country. Scores of Peshmerga were said to have been killed or injured in the attack.
Tens of thousands of people, mainly Shiites, Kurds and Christians, have fled the city to outlying villages and towns, where rents have soared dramatically due to the continuous influx of refugees.
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