Mosul battle: Just days left, leaders say

  • 29/06/2017
Members of the Iraqi Federal Police gesture after returning back from the front line in Mosul
Members of the Iraqi Federal Police gesture after returning back from the front line. Photo credit: Reuters

Iraq's military have pushed deeper into Mosul's Old City, taking two more districts from Islamic State and bringing it closer to total control of the city.

The army's 16th infantry division captured Hadarat al-Saada and al-Ahmadiyya, the military said in a statement. The areas are northwest of the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque which the militants destroyed last week.

Islamic State still controls the mosque's grounds and about half of the territory in the Old City, its last redoubt in Mosul.

"Fifty percent of this area has been liberated, al-Mashada and al-Ahmadiyya and al-Saada," Major General Jabbar al-Darraji told Iraqi state television.

"Our troops are now moving towards Farouq Street," he said, referring to the Old City's main north-south thoroughfare.

Federal police and elite units of the Counter-Terrorism Service have also been fighting inside the district's maze of narrow alleyways since the battle began 10 days ago.

A US-led international coalition is providing air and ground support in the eight-month-old offensive.

Authorities expect the battle to end in the coming days, though the advance remains arduous.

Federal policemen walked through piles of rubble amid wrecked houses on Wednesday to reach the frontline, southwest of al-Nuri mosque. A Reuters correspondent said they exchanged mortars and sniper fire with militants.

The Old City's stone buildings date mostly from the medieval period. They include market stalls, a few mosques and churches, and small houses built and rebuilt on top of each other over the ages.

The military estimates up to 350 militants are dug in among civilians in wrecked houses and crumbling infrastructure. They are trying to slow the advance of Iraqi forces by laying booby traps and using suicide bombers and snipers.

Five IS fighters tried to flee across the Tigris River to the eastern side of Mosul but were killed by security forces, the military said on Wednesday.