Baghdad, July 9 (IANS) Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State (IS) group on Sunday recaptured a new area and pushed the remaining militants into a pocket in the old city of western Mosul, the military said.
The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) liberated al-Maidan area in the heavily-populated old city centre and reached the Tigris River bank, Xinhua news agency quoted Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command (JOC) as saying in a statement.
The CTS and the army’s ninth Armoured Division were engaged in heavy house-to-house fighting against the IS in the narrow alleys in the last two pockets of al-Qlei’at and al-Shahwan, a security source said.
The fighting in the old city was becoming heavier as Iraqi forces pushed the extremist militants into the strip of land along the bank of the Tigris River.
The desperate militants have been increasingly resorting to suicide attacks and showing stiff resistance that slowed the troops’ progress in recent days.
Joint Operations Command Yahia Rasoul told EFE news on Saturday that the Iraqi forces were planning to announce victory over the IS very shortly.
Rasoul said “the victory over the IS in the next few hours, after clearing all areas of Mosul (of explosives)”.
There were a large number of roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings, in addition to IS snipers taking position in the buildings and narrow alleys of heavily-populated neighbourhoods, where thousands of civilians still live under the IS rule.
Mosul, 400 km north of Baghdad, is under IS control since June 2014 when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions.
The offensive on Mosul’s Old City began on June 19, after government troops regained control of the other districts in the city in previous months.
In January, Iraqi troops declared the eastern half of Mosul “liberated” after a three-month offensive.
In February, they launched the second phase of the military operation on the west side of the city.