United Nations secretary-general starts official visit to Iraq

Miranda GreerMar 31, 2017

FILE - Residents carry the body of several people killed during fights between Iraq security forces and Islamic State on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, March 24, 2017.

A spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) said Guterres would meet the Iraqi president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker before heading north to visit camps sheltering people displaced by the Mosul conflict.

Guterres's visit comes at a critical time for Iraq, which is fighting to retake Mosul in a battle that has sparked myriad humanitarian concerns.

Amid reports of dozens of civilians killed by air strikes in Mosul, he added that "protection of civilians must be the absolute priority".

On Thursday, Iraq's militarized federal police inched deeper into Mosul's old city - a dense urban core in the city's western half - where they met with stiff resistance from IS militants. Khalid told The Associated Press.

The truck bomb targeted a police checkpoint in southern Baghdad on Wednesday night, killing and wounding scores according to Iraqi officials.

He said the troops were about 100 meters away from a symbolic mosque where the leader of the extremist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared its self-styled caliphate in the summer of 2014.

Iraqi forces have won back control of most cities that fell to the ultra-hardline Sunni group, and have been battling to recapture Mosul since October, with the backing of a USA -led coalition.The militants have been dislodged from almost three quarters of the city but they remain in control of the densely populated old center.

Officials and witnesses say that airstrikes during the operation to take the western part of the city, which started last month, have also taken a devastating toll on civilians who have remained.

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