Iraqi army soldiers, backed by pro-government fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units, have made fresh gains in door-to-door fighting against Daesh Takfiri terrorists in the Old City of Mosul as they are battling to expel the extremists from the country’s second largest city.
An unnamed military spokesman said on Monday that Iraqi Federal Police forces “are engaged in difficult, house-to-house clashes with Daesh” terrorists inside Mosul’s Old City.
He added that government troops were extensively making use of remotely-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles to locate the extremists, who were hiding among civilians, and direct airstrikes on the targets.
A police spokesman, requesting anonymity, also said Iraqi forces were closing in on Grand al-Nuri Mosque, where purported Daesh ringleader Ibrahim al-Samarrai aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his famous speech on the formation of the terror group.
Meanwhile, Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said his forces had killed 60 Daesh extremists.
Shaker added that the Takfiri terrorists were killed on Monday as security personnel were advancing in al-Farouq district near the Grand al-Nuri Mosque.
Hossam al-Abbar, a member of the Nineveh provincial council, also said in a statement that security forces had been in control of 75 percent of the western side of Mosul.
He said battles were concentrated around the centuries-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque, and troops were preparing to storm the area with snipers, hand grenades and assault rifles.
Abbar stressed that government forces would not use artillery units and airstrikes during the forthcoming offensive in order to prevent civilian casualties.
Also on Monday, the United Nations announced that nearly half a million civilians had fled fighting since the offensive to retake Mosul from Daesh terrorists started on October 17, 2016.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said 493,000 people had been displaced from the city, located some 400 kilometers north of the capital, Baghdad.
“The sheer volume of civilians still fleeing Mosul city is staggering,” Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, said in a statement.
She added, “Our worst case scenario when the fighting started was that up to one million civilians may flee Mosul. Already, more than 493,000 people have left, leaving almost everything behind.”
As many as 500,000 civilians are still trapped in Daesh-controlled neighborhoods of western Mosul.
Iraqi army soldiers and pro-government fighters from Popular Mobilization Units, commonly known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi, have made sweeping gains against the Takfiri elements since launching the operation to retake Mosul.
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.