UN Chief: Protection of Mosul Civilians an 'Absolute Priority'

Iraqi forces are fighting ISIL in western Mosul, where some 2 000 fighters are launching fierce counter-attacks.

"Just arrived in Iraq to focus on the dire humanitarian situation on the ground".

He called on Iraq's leaders to build "a State in which all communities respect each other and reconciliation becomes something natural", according to a United Nations statement.

Islamic State overran about a third of Iraq in 2014, benefiting from the Sunni-Shi'ite rift that weakened the army.

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"Iraq needs a plan similar to the Marshall Plan.to present assistance to Iraqis and support development and overcome the effect of war against (IS) terrorist gangs", Jaafari said, according to his office.

Iraqi special forces and police fought ISIL to edge closer to the al-Nuri mosque in western Mosul on Wednesday, tightening their control around the landmark site.

The Marshall Plan was an initiative launched by the USA to aid Western Europe to recover from devastation after the World War II.

But tens of thousands more are still trapped inside homes, caught in the fighting, shelling and air strikes.

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Three policemen were among the dead, along with civilians and health officials.

In the attack, a suicide truck bomb targeted a police checkpoint on the Iraqi capital's main southern entrance, killing 15 people and wounding 45.

More than a half-million civilians are still believed to remain in Islamic State-held areas of Mosul, with many of them used by Islamic State extremists as human shields as Iraqi forces advance.

The UN said earlier this month that some 600,000 civilians were still in west Mosul, 400,000 of them trapped in siege-like conditions in the Old City.

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