Iraq breaks Islamic State siege in fight for Mosul's Old City

Tomas Mccoy
June 19, 2017

"I think the chance of us dying on our way out of the city is higher than the chance of us dying in our houses", the resident said, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of Islamic State reprisals.

May 4: Iraqi forces launch a second front in northwestern Mosul to further seal the siege on the Old City, where IS has concentrated most of its resources. "We are proud to stand with them", McGurk posted on his official Twitter page. Iraq launched a massive operation to retake the city last October.

It was at the Grand Mosque in Mosul's Old City, almost three years ago, that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

In the northern city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State group, a USA -backed Syrian force entered new neighborhoods east and west of the city adding that they were able to free dozens of civilians who were trapped in the fighting.

"This is the final chapter" of the offensive to take Mosul, said Lieutenant General Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, senior commander in Mosul of the elite Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) units spearheading the assault.

She said that "conditions in the Old City are desperate", with very little food and no clean water, and the United Nations expects nearly everyone to try to get out — "probably 120,000 to 150,000 civilians".

Tribal forces and border police, supported by Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft, took part in the operation to take the al-Waleed crossing, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement Saturday.

Syrian troops in the area are preparing to march on Islamic State positions to the north, in the Euphrates River Valley.

"More than 100,000 civilians may still be held in the Old City", Geddo told reporters in Geneva.

The US-backed offensive to retake Mosul is now in its ninth month.

The area is home to the Al-Nuri Mosque, an iconic spot for the Islamic State, as it was the site where group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed in June 2014 the caliphate he imposed on territories that the group had conquered in Iraq and Syria.

"The operation now is about street fighting, air and artillery strikes will be limited because the area is heavily populated and the buildings fragile", CTS spokesman Sabah al-Numan told al-Hadath TV in Dubai. Its capital there, Raqqa, is being besieged.

Iraqi security forces have since recaptured much of the territory seized by IS, including three cities, and have retaken most of Mosul, the fourth and largest.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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