Iraq’s military said on Wednesday it had retaken two more neighbourhoods from Islamic State in Mosul‘s Old City, bringing it closer to total control of the city.
The army’s 16th infantry division captured Hadarat al-Saada and al-Ahmadiyya, northwest of the historic Grand al-Nuri Mosque which the militants destroyed last week. Islamic State still controls the mosque’s grounds and about half of the last territory it runs in the Old City.
Federal police and elite units of the Counter-Terrorism Service have also been fighting inside the district’s maze of narrow alleyways since the battle began 10 days ago.
The military estimates up to 350 militants are dug in among civilians in wrecked houses and crumbling infrastructure. They are trying to slow the advance of Iraqi forces by laying booby traps and using suicide bombers and snipers.
Those residents who have escaped say many of the civilians trapped behind Islamic State lines – put at 50,000 by the Iraqi military – are in a desperate situation with little food, water or medicines.
A U.S.-led international coalition is providing air and ground support in the eight-month-old offensive.