Top Iraqi commander: Mosul could be liberated in 3 months

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The advance also consolidated Iraqi forces' control of several districts close to the ruins of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, east of the river.

Elite Iraqi counter-terrorism service (CTS) units encircled the nearby Sukkar district on Monday and sought to recapture the strategic Mosul University area.

Carter said the decision to keep a residual US military presence in Iraq would be up to the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Since the offensive started in October, some 135,000 people have been displaced, he said, adding that a non-governmental organisation had opened a field hospital east of Mosul to take the strain off hospitals in Erbil, some 60 km (40 miles) away.

According to the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), almost 700 people have been rushed to hospitals in Kurdish-controlled areas outside Mosul in the past week.

This is part of the second phase of the Mosul offensive that began in December.

After a lull in operations, the CTS and other forces stepped up their coordination and, with increased air and advisory support from a USA -led coalition, launched a fresh push just before the New Year.

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"Trauma casualties remain extremely high, particularly near frontlines", he told reporters in Geneva.

Iraqi forces have fought their way into two more southeastern districts but their advances are being slowed by Islamic State's tactic of using civilians for cover.

The United States leads an global coalition against the Islamic State that carries out airstrikes, trains Iraqi forces and gathers intelligence, while the Iraqi government, Shiite-led militias and the Kurdish Peshmerga engage the Sunni Islam militant group in ground offensives.

He said rapid response units and Iraqi army units had fought their way into the Palestine and Sumer districts in the last day, but that IS fighters were firing at civilians trying to flee.

A spokesman for the rapid response units of Iraq's federal police Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammedawi, told Reuters IS was hiding among civilians. "Some of them run to Rashidiyah, [to] the north of Mosul".

"It'll take some time to consolidate Iraqi security, even after the fall of Mosul, which will occur like the defeat of ISIL will occur".

Major General Najm al-Jubbouri said, "They will soon liberate other areas and hopefully finish the eastern side".

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