Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

Iraqi army cuts off last ‘Islamic State’ supply line to west Mosul

Deutsche Welle reports:

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the anti-IS coalition said on Sunday that fighters with the Islamist group were "trapped. Just last night, the 9th Iraqi army division ... cut off the last road out of Mosul,"

"Any of the fighters who are left in Mosul, they're going to die there," McGurk said. "We are very committed to not just defeating them in Mosul, but making sure these guys cannot escape."

After "fully liberating" the city's east from IS in January, US-backed Iraqi forces moved onto western Mosul, with a renewed push in March.

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Islamic State frees Mosul prisoners as grip on last major city slips

Reuters reports:

Islamic State has released dozens of prisoners held in jails in the districts of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that remain under its control, residents said on Saturday.

The release of the prisoners on Friday is another sign that the militants are being overwhelmed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi offensive that started on Oct. 17 to dislodge them from Mosul, their last major city stronghold in Iraq.

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Bone by bone, Iraqis unearth a mass grave: ‘We will be out there digging until no one is left’

Molly Hennessy-Fiske writes for LA Times:

“Many of the bodies, the hands were tied. They were blindfolded and shot in the forehead,” said Omar Hasan as he surveyed remains scattered beside a sinkhole Islamic State had turned into a mass grave.

A captain in a local Sunni tribal militia that polices the area around the village of Al Houd since it was freed in November, Hasan helped excavate the mass grave, where locals found 25 remains. But land mines planted by Islamic State have already killed some volunteers.

Hasan suspects the sinkhole was used to dump victims from Al Houd until last year. Excavators have found women’s veils, children’s clothes and severed heads. So far, none of the remains have been identified.

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Iraq Bristles at UN Push to Gather Evidence of IS Crimes

Michelle Nichols writes for Reuters:

Iraq is assessing what help it might need to collect and preserve evidence of Islamic State crimes, but has not yet decided whether it needs United Nations assistance, the country’s U.N. Ambassador, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said Friday.

Britain is drafting a U.N. Security Council resolution to establish a U.N. investigation to collect and preserve evidence for future prosecution, but would like Iraq to approve such a move by sending a letter formally requesting council action.

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and Nadia Murad, a young Yazidi woman who was enslaved and raped by Islamic State fighters in Mosul, pushed Iraq Thursday to allow a U.N. inquiry.

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Tunnels under ancient Mosul mosque show Islamic State’s focus on loot

Huda Majeed writes for Reuters:

Extensive excavations by Islamic State militants under Mosul's ancient Mosque of Jonah show they took care to preserve artifacts for loot, a local archaeologist said, in sharp contrast to their public desecration of antiquities.

The careful way the tunnels were dug show the militants wanted to keep the treasures intact, said archaeologist Musab Mohammed Jassim, from the Nineveh Antiquities and Heritage Department

"They used simple tools and chisels to dig the tunnels, in order not to damage the artifacts," he said, standing near the tunnel network which leads from the mosque ruins above ground to the much older subterranean palace.

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In Mosul, Iraqi forces struggle to hang on to government compound days after retaking it

Mustafa Salim and Loveday Morris write for The Washington Post:

Iraqi forces are suffering fierce counterattacks in areas of Mosul recaptured from the Islamic State, soldiers say, and are barely holding the main government compound that they triumphantly declared cleared earlier this week.

Police units have made a rapid push into the city over the past two weeks, reaching its main government buildings Tuesday. But forces were soon ambushed there in what one police officer described as a “well-planned trap,” while their grip on other neighborhoods they claim to control seemed tenuous during a recent trip to the city.

In the western neighborhood of Dindan, about half a mile from the government compound, forces with Iraq’s emergency response division, an elite unit of the police, came under frequent mortar fire two days later. Soldiers ducked behind walls to avoid snipers.

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Iraq says ‘no evidence’ of chemical weapons attacks in Mosul

Reuters reports:

Iraqi U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim said on Friday there was "no evidence" that Islamic State had used chemical weapons in Mosul, where the militants are fighting off an offensive by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces.

Alhakim said he spoke with officials in Baghdad at midday on Friday and "there was really no evidence that Daesh has used this chemical weapon." Daesh is another name for Islamic State.

The United Nations said last Saturday that 12 people, including women and children, had been treated for possible exposure to chemical weapons agents in Mosul since March 1.

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Iraq aims to drive Islamic State from west Mosul within a month

Ahmed Rasheed and John Davison report for Reuters:

Iraqi forces aim to dislodge Islamic State militants from west Mosul within a month, despite grueling urban combat in densely populated terrain, the head of the elite Counter Terrorism Service told Reuters on Thursday.

As Iraqi forces advance deeper into west Mosul, they are facing increasingly stiff resistance from Islamic State militants using suicide car bombs and snipers to defend their last major stronghold in Iraq.

"Despite the tough fighting... we are moving ahead in persistence to finish the battle for the western side within a month," Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati told Reuters at a conference in Sulaimaniya.

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Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens at Wedding Party in Iraq

AP reports:

Suicide bombers struck a village north of Baghdad as a wedding party gathered in the evening, killing at least 26 people and wounding scores, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

The assault began late Wednesday when an assailant wearing an explosives-laden belt walked into the wedding party at an open area in Hajaj, near the city of Tikrit, about 120 miles north of Baghdad.

After the bomber detonated his explosives and people scrambled to help the wounded, a second assailant blew himself up at the scene, Ali al-Hamdani, a provincial spokesman, told The Associated Press.

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Surviving on the front line in Mosul’s street battles

John Davison writes for Reuters:

Mohammed Fathi sat calmly on a plastic chair, twiddling his prayer beads as machine gun fire erupted from a neighbor's house, incoming bullets crackled overhead and helicopters strafed targets nearby in western Mosul.

The 70-year-old grandfather of 10 looked relieved. The day before, death had come much closer.

He described how Islamic State fighters had used the top floor of his home to fire sniper rifles and BKC machine guns at advancing Iraqi forces, while Fathi's family and others displaced by the violence cowered downstairs.

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