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Iran Press TV

Iraqi govt. forces inch closer to strategic mosque in western Mosul

Iran Press TV

Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:23PM

Iraqi government forces have closed in on the strategic Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the western part of Mosul as they are fighting fierce street battles to drive Takfiri Daesh terrorists out of their former urban stronghold in the country.

Military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Wednesday army soldiers had encircled Daesh's stronghold in the Old City of Mosul.

The media bureau of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command announced in a statement that members of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) were 200 to 300 meters away from the mosque, where purported Daesh ringleader Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his famous speech on the formation of the terror group back in June 2014.

The statement added that Iraqi Air Forces jets had carried out two separate airstrikes in the Old City of Mosul. One of the aerial assaults targeted a vehicle, killing three terrorists, while the other strike destroyed an arms depot, and left 10 Daesh Takfiris dead.

Separately, Federal Police Forces Commander Lieutenant General Shaker Jawdat said security forces had stormed Mosul's Old City from the southern front.

He stated that units of the 20th Brigade of the Federal Police had attacked the district, besieged the militants and advanced towards shopping complexes in al-Sarjkhana area.

Taking back the Old City of Mosul, a densely populated warren of narrow alleyways on the western side of Mosul, is crucial to recapturing the whole of the northern city.

The United Nations says around 150,000 civilians are trapped in the neighborhood along with hundreds of Daesh militants.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on June 16 that Daesh militants were holding more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians as human shields in Mosul's Old City.

The presiding UNHCR representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva that Daesh snipers try to kill anyone trying to leave the area, stressing that the small number of civilians who manage to escape are "deeply traumatized."

Iraqi army soldiers and volunteer fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by their Arabic name, Hashd al-Sha'abi, have made sweeping gains against Daesh since launching the Mosul operation on October 17, 2016.

The Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting, and launched the battle in the west on February 19.

An estimated 862,000 people have been displaced from Mosul ever since the battle to retake the city began nine months ago. A total of 195,000 civilians have also returned, mainly to the liberated areas of eastern Mosul.

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