Mosul militants dig in for the final fight

Mosul militants dig in for the final fight

Iraqi forces today pushed towards the river side of Mosul's Old City, their key target in the eight-month campaign to capture Islamic State's de-facto capital.

The Iraqi army, the Kurdistan Regional government and a US-led coalition are involved in what is known as the "Battle for Mosul", a joint military offensive that began in October 2016 and aims to retake control of the besieged town. "In a few days, our forces will reach Cornishe Street and bring the battle to its conclusion", said Lt-Gen Jawdat, adding that the federal police had forced militants out of Ziwani mosque in the Old City's south-western corner.

Iraqi forces launched an operation to retake Mosul's Old City just over a week ago, more than eight months after the fight to retake Iraq's second-largest city officially began.

"The victory announcement will come in a very short time", Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on his website on Monday evening.

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

Chief of Iraq's Counterterrorism Command, Major General Abdul-Wahhab al-Saedi said the Iraqi army has created some safe corridors paving the way for the release of civilians from Mosul's old city.

Ayad Azizi, a commander of the Federal Police, told Rudaw on Tuesday that the ISIS militants are now using sniper fire and infiltration tactics as their method of fighting the Iraqi forces.

The mosque was also hugely symbolic - it was from a pulpit there that the Islamic State group's top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2014 declared a self-styled "caliphate", encompassing territories held by IS in Syria and Iraq. Troops ducked into narrow alleyways, through bright courtyards and up balconies to reach positions with a view of the now destroyed al-Nuri Mosque.

Iraqi troops Monday captured the Al-Faruq quarter, facing the mosque, the military said. The following day, he said, a dozen coalition airstrikes on Mosul's western-most edge killed about 40 militants. The Iraqi forces started attacking the western side of Mosul in February, a month after taking the side located east of the Tigris.

The group has carried out sporadic suicide bombings in parts of Mosul using sleeper cells.