Iraqi Forces Combing West Mosul after Surprise Attack

Danny Woods
June 27, 2017

This final phase of the Mosul offensive has seen Iraqi troops make slow, but steady, headway into the Old City's narrow alleys-the only possible approach to such a claustrophobic and complicated urban environment, where troops expect to encounter booby-trapped homes and hidden militant fighters.

Iraqi troops captured on Monday the neighborhood of al-Faruq in the northwestern side of the Old City, facing the mosque, the military said.

He was speaking from the war-torn Old City, a few meters from what is left of the iconic leaning minaret of the Grand Al-Nuri Mosque, which IS militants had blown up four days earlier.

Aid organizations say Daesh has stopped many civilians from leaving, using them as human shields. However, the Islamic State would still have strongholds in territories west and south of the city.

The jihadists simultaneously blew up the nearby Nuri mosque, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his first sermon as IS leader in July 2014, his last public appearance to date.

Thousands of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen, assisted by US-led coalition warplanes and military advisers, are deployed.

USA -backed Iraqi special forces said Sunday they've retaken two-thirds of the Old City, but it's come at a cost.

The surprise assault took place as Iraqi forces were searching the al-Tanak and Yarmouk neighbourhoods in the western side of the city, which had been retaken several weeks ago. Witnesses said residents had fled the two neighborhoods.

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The mosque's destruction, while condemned by Iraqi and United Nations authorities as another cultural crime by the jihadists, gave troops more freedom to press their onslaught as they no longer had to worry about damaging the ancient site.

The east bank of Mosul was retaken in January and a push to wrest back the western side was launched in mid-February. "Partnered with them, our mission is to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria". For children and families living in camps the retaking of Mosul by Iraqi forces from ISIS won't be the end of their journey.

I've walked the Nile, trekked the Himalayas and seen combat in Afghanistan, but nothing quite prepared me for the devastation I saw when I went to Sinjar city and the refugee camps outside Mosul in Northern Iraq previous year.

The fall of Mosul would mark the end of the Iraqi half of the "caliphate".

CBS News entered the Old City with Iraqi special forces, the very forces that broke through ISIS defenses and started advancing toward the mosque.

The deputy commander of the USA -led coalition working to defeat the Islamic State group said Monday "the final liberation of Mosul is drawing ever closer".

The blazing 45 degree heat and stench of dead bodies have given the last days of the battle an apocalyptic feel, soldiers on the frontlines report.

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