An Iraqi family walks on a street in eastern Mosul on January 15, 2017, as they flee with other civilians during an ongoing military operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. AFP / Dimitar DILKOFF
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When Abu Rami returned 11 days later, the fighting had ended and the militants had slipped away, but his two-story house was destroyed by an airstrike.With nearly all of eastern Mosul under government control three months into the U.S.-backed offensive, most residents have stayed in the city, complicating the task of the military which must fight among civilians in built-up areas against an enemy that has targeted noncombatants and hidden among them.Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in December it could now take another three months to drive the militants out. Commanders have said the presence of up to 1.5 million residents and attempts to minimize destruction to homes and key infrastructure has slowed their troops' advance, though hundreds of civilians have already been killed and many areas heavily damaged.U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend, commander of the international coalition backing Iraqi forces, told Reuters last week that Daesh's local leadership had proven effective without a hierarchical chain of command.
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