Iraqi Troops Push Deeper into Mosul

Thursday, 29 Jun, 2017

Iraq's armed forces have blocked a major wave of attacks by Islamic State suicide bombers outside the Old City of Mosul, a military statement says.

Iraqi forces have retaken a strategic part of western Mosul's Old City district from the Daesh terrorist group, according to a high-ranking Iraqi military source. Footage showed families, fearing a return to Isil rule, leaving by auto and on foot against a backdrop of rising black smoke.

"It's a matter of a few days and we will announce the total liberation of Mosul", Abadi said.

Those residents who have escaped say numerous civilians trapped behind ISIL lines - put at 50,000 by the Iraqi military - are in a desperate situation with little food, water or medicines.

General Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a commander in Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service, which sent forces to fight the Isil gunmen, said the attackers had infiltrated the area by blending in with returning displaced civilians. Some of the residents who had fled the fighting returned to areas where the curfew was partially lifted, witnesses said.

The fall of Mosul would mark the end of the Iraqi half of Islamic State group's "caliphate" as a quasi-state structure, but IS group would still hold sizeable, mainly rural and small-town tracts of both Iraq and Syria.

"From a military perspective, Daesh is finished", Mr Assadi said.

The east bank of Mosul, a city divided by the Tigris River, was retaken in January and a push to wrest back the western side was launched in mid-February.

Earlier this month, Mosul residents reported ISIS fighters had begun sealing off the area around the al-Nuri Mosque.

Sunday's attacks targeted Hay al-Tanak, a poor neighbourhood west of the Old City, the last stronghold of the militants in Mosul.

Baghdadi has left the fighting in Mosul to local commanders and has been assumed to be hiding in the Iraqi-Syrian border area.

Federal forces backed a US-led coalition launched an offensive to retake the country's second city from IS more than eight months ago.

Faruq is located on the opposite side of the historic Nuri Mosque, which was destroyed by ISIS last week. however, the militant group still control the site of the mosque. Recent Russian reports that he was killed have not been confirmed by the coalition or Iraqi authorities.

Children played on swings in squares on the eastern side of the city, which had been taken by Iraqi forces months ago before the assault on western Mosul was launched.

In Syria, the insurgents' "capital" Raqqa, is almost encircled by a US -backed, Kurdish-led coalition.